Concerns about possible contamination of drinking water supplies in the Comox Valley will be addressed in the application for an environmental assessment of the proposed Raven underground coal mine, says Compliance Coal Corp. president John Tapics.
“In our environmental assessment application we will need to provide all the information to show we will be protecting drinking water,” Tapics said in an interview.
The University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Clinic has asked Vancouver Island Health Authority’s drinking water officer to halt the application for an underground coal mine near Buckley Bay because of fears that tailings from the coal mine will contaminate wells and aquifers.
The Law Clinic, acting on behalf of the Fanny Bay Waterworks Improvement District and Ships Point Improvement District, has asked VIHA to issue a drinking-water health-hazard prevention order.
The City of Courtenay, Town of Comox and Comox Valley Regional District have all passed motions asking Compliance for aquifer mapping and expressing concerns about the effect of the mine on drinking water.
Tapics said the aquifers have been mapped and details will be included in the 12,000-page application for an environmental assessment that will be submitted to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency within the next two months.
“In the application requirements, it’s quite clear that we need to provide this information,” he said.
Mapping the aquifers has been a three-year process and about 180 test holes have been dug within the Raven project area, Tapics said.
Additional modelling has been done to map the downslope aquifers, he said.
“A very comprehensive process is already in place to address concerns being raised by the water improvement districts,” he said.
“It’s our job to be able to demonstrate that where there’s potential for adverse environmental effects, we have measures that will mitigate any potential adverse effects.”
In a letter to drinking water officer Dr. Charmaine Enns, Tapics said suggestions that there is a significant risk of an imminent drinking water health hazard are not true.
“In our view, this is an unnecessary request,” he said.
“Drinking water protection, and the subject of groundwater in general, will be addressed in detail in the application.
Once the application is submitted, the EAO and CEAA, helped by a working group, will decide whether it meets all requirements.
If so, during the next 180 days there will be time for public comment while the application is reviewed.
The two levels of government then have 45 days to make a decision whether to allow the application, possibly with terms and conditions.
If the Raven project does get the go-ahead, it will take time to get financing and detailed engineering plans, Tapics said.
The earliest the first coal could come out of the ground is late 2015 or early 2016, he said.
© Copyright 2013