Parksville Qualicum Beach News

Moving coal with conveyors

S.A. Mennie, a 78-year-old mechanical engineer living in Parksville, has worked on conveyor-belt systems for mining projects all over the world. - JOHN HARDING PHOTO
S.A. Mennie, a 78-year-old mechanical engineer living in Parksville, has worked on conveyor-belt systems for mining projects all over the world.
— image credit: JOHN HARDING PHOTO

There's a way to move coal from the proposed Raven mine to Port Alberni that does not involve one single truck, says a local engineer.

Much of the opposition to the proposed mine east of Buckley Bay has centred around the truck traffic and accompanying coal dust that would appear on the roads in and around Qualicum Beach, upwards of three trucks leaving the site an hour, 24 hours a day.

Parksville's S. A. (Sid) Mennie has worked on conveyor belt systems for mines in many countries. He believes a covered, 65-kilometre conveyor belt system through the wilderness from the mine site to the port would alleviate those concerns.

"It's possible to eliminate dust concerns, coal droppings from the trucks, the dangerous trucks on the road — we don't need all of that," Mennie said this week.

Conveyor systems have been used in all kinds of applications since the 1800s. The Paris, France-based company Mennie works with, RBL/REI, takes advantage of a patented innovation called Curvoduc that allows for the conveyors to curve around hills or mountains or other impediments.

Mennie, a mechanical engineer, estimates a conveyor system for the Raven project would cost $120 million and take four years of engineering and installation before it could be up and running.

"Yes, initially, this is more money, but it pays off," says Mennie. "The cost of running trucks is horrendous."

And he's not just talking about the monetary cost of operating trucks full of coal on the Alberni Highway and the roads in and around Qualicum Beach and Qualicum Bay and Lighthouse Country.

"There will be bodies all over the place," he says.

Mennie says he believes the conveyor system would go a long way to addressing the concerns of both residents and environmentalists opposed to the Raven project. He says he is not coming forward with this idea for personal gain.

"I'm 78 years old — I will never see this project," he says. "I'll never make a buck off this. I will be dead long before this comes to fruition."

The NEWS could not get any environmental groups to go on the record with comment about the conveyor-belt idea. A couple of people called it "ridiculous" and "preposterous" and said their opposition to the Raven mine is about the mine itself and not the method of delivery for the coal. Officials from Compliance Energy, the company that is proposing the Raven project, could not be reached for comment.

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