Firm vows not to give up in effort to open coal mine in Comox Valley

The company that wants to build an underground coal mine in the Comox Valley says it is not giving up, despite the rejection of its initial proposal by the provincial government.

Compliance Coal Corp. said Tuesday its 12,000-page proposal will be reworked and information will be added to meet provincial requirements.

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The company, which wants to build the Raven Underground Coal Project near Buckley Bay, was faced with a setback last week when the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office rejected its application, saying it did not contain enough information on topics ranging from tailings disposal to the effect of a mine on water and air quality. It also said there had been a lack of consultation with First Nations.

Compliance Coal’s application is undergoing a joint federal and provincial review.

“The company [will] review the comments returned by the [Environmental Assessment Office] and provide clarification or additional information and then resubmit the application for further review,” said a statement from Compliance Coal.

The Environmental Assessment Office comments are typical and “not unexpected” after a first review, said Stephen Ellis, the company’s vice-president of operations.

“As we have maintained all along, a comprehensive study delivers a high-quality environmental assessment, incorporating extensive public and aboriginal consultation,” Ellis said. “This screening review is simply the first round.”

An Environment Ministry statement said it is not unusual for the assessment office to require revisions to applications before they are accepted. “The proponent has been provided with a detailed list of deficiencies,” it said.

John Snyder, president of CoalWatch Comox Valley Society, said the company appears to be minimizing an obvious problem. “Basically, they did a book report and left out a couple of chapters.”

Some of the data holes are startling, Snyder said.

“Even though we have been harping on water issues from the get-go, they still submitted an application that had information gaps on hydrology,” he said.

“Given the widespread concerns about our vulnerable aquifers and the Baynes Sound shellfish industry, it’s remarkable the application contained information gaps on these important issues.”

Once an application is accepted, there is a 180-day public comment period. The two senior levels of government then have 45 days to make a decision.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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