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Quinsam mine expansion worries groups

Comox Valley Echo, September 24, 2010

A coalition of groups wants the City of Campbell River's help in calling for a full Provincial Environmental Assessment of a controversial Quinsam Coal mine expansion proposal.

"An Environmental Assessment will help ensure that Hillsborough's project is as clean as possible," states a letter to city council from the Campbell River Environmental Committee (CREC), the Greenways Land Trust, the Haig-Brown Institute, the Campbell River Estuary Group and the Campbell River Retired Teachers' Association. "The Campbell, a BC Heritage River, is our river system, our priceless heritage. Both the salmonoids and the Quinsam Hatchery depend upon it. Salmonoids cannot speak out, but we can. Please keep the future needs of our salmonoids in mind."

Quinsam Coal has applied for a mining permit amendment to allow a new underground mine called 7 South near a 90-degree bend in the Quinsam River. Plans call for the extraction of 1,706,800 tonnes of raw coal from 2011 to 2014. Because waste materials - coarse coal rejects (CCR) - can generate acid when exposed to air, the amendment application also calls for CCR storage in water-filled pits.

The province's Environmental Assessment Office stated last April that the project does not constitute a reviewable project under the Environmental Assessment Act, so an environmental assessment was not required. Instead, the Vancouver Island Mine Development Review Committee (VIMDRC) conducted a legislated 60-day review process.

Local groups have long been concerned about acid drainage, sulfates and arsenic concentrations found in Long Lake below the mine.

© Comox Valley Echo 2010