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Raven coal application lacks information: EAO

Eric Plummer, Alberni Valley Times, March 17, 2015

A proposed coal mine that would ship its product from Port Alberni has brought up a long list of questions with B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office.

The provincial regulator recently released a 62-page document on the Raven Underground Coal Project's last submission to the EAO, citing shortcomings in the applicant's consideration of the proposed coal mine's effects. For the last several years Compliance Energy has endeavoured to develop the mine in the Comox Valley and truck one million tonnes of coal to Port Alberni annually for steelmaking markets in South Korea and Japan.

With plans for three truckloads of coal an hour via Highway 4 to Port Alberni, the EAO stated Compliance's last application has a lack of information about the resulting ship activity in the Alberni Inlet, as well as loading procedures, possible coal dust emissions and road traffic management. Residences are within 200 metres of the port facility Compliance hopes to use.

"No mention of air quality concerns/ knowledge obtained through consultation with the City of Port Alberni and/or the Air Quality Council," stated the EAO document. "Very cursory consideration of potential impacts to fisheries. Please clarify potential for project effects on fisheries in Alberni Inlet."

Compliance president and CEO Stephen Ellis said that the project would bring 70 jobs to the Alberni Valley, 50 tied to trucking and another 20 at the port facility. But the EAO stated the economic benefits of the project are based on assumptions.

"Justification must be provided for these assumptions. It is unclear whether or not they are reasonable," said the provincial regulator. "Tseshaht First Nation identified that prawns and salmon are important fisheries that do not appear to be addressed in the assessment."

Despite the thousands of pages in its multiple volumes, Compliance's latest submission does not address the shortcomings that led the EAO to reject a previous application for the Raven coal mine in May 2013, said a committee assembled to advise the City of Port Alberni on the proposed project.

Compliance pulled out of the application process on March 2, the day that the provincial regulator was expected to announce a decision.

Ellis said that Compliance Energy and the company's partners have invested over $20 million in the venture. Their next step is addressing the EAO's list of recommendations.

"We're still confident that we can develop this project in a favourable manner," Ellis said. "We've got a lot of money tied up in it and we want to see it come along."

Besides providing local jobs the coal mine would help Port Alberni's waterfront industry, said Ellis.

"It could also give a much needed injection into the port facility," he said.