Raven Coal Mine proponent alleges bias from provincial environmental assessment office

Could this be the final chapter in bid to put mine 50 km from downtown Qualicum Beach?

Stephen Ellis claims the “built-in biases” of the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) hindered plans for a Buckley Bay coal mine proposal to move forward.

“We believe… that the EAO are not treating the proposed Raven Underground Coal Project in a fair and transparent manner,” Ellis, president of Compliance Coal Corporation, wrote in a letter addressed to EAO executive project director Shelley Murphy dated Aug. 25 obtained by The NEWS.

“The project would never be able to achieve an EA (Environmental Assessment) certificate given the built-in biases in the review process.”

Ellis goes on to say he sees “little merit in sitting down with the EAO” to review options for the Raven project, claiming the review process has been “exceedingly costly” and time consuming forcing two international firms to exit the project.

The letter comes after the EAO asked Compliance to submit more information about its proposed coal mine operation, located less than 50 kilometres from Qualicum Beach, by Aug. 28.

Responding to Ellis’ comments, a Ministry of Environment spokesperson told The NEWS by e-mail “the Environmental Assessment Office stands by its determination that the application for an environmental assessment certificate for the Raven coal mine requires additional information. We came to that determination following a careful review, conducted with the assistance of experts from the provincial government, other levels of government and Aboriginal groups.”

CoalWatch president John Snyder called it “sour grapes.”

“CoalWatch’s view continues to be that Compliance Coal has been afforded due process during the EA process,” said Snyder, whose group opposes the creation of a coal mine in their community. “Compliance has nobody to blame but themselves for the position they’re in.”

Pursuant to the Environmental Assessment Act, the EAO must now suspend or terminate the environmental assessment or update key documents to ensure they’re current.

Snyder said many people will be watching the EAO’s next steps in relation to the Raven coal project with a keen eye.

“Compliance Energy has consistently failed to navigate B.C.’s environmental review process,” said Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island campaigner with the Wilderness Committee. “I think part of Compliance’s dilemma is that there is no way to responsibly justify a new coal mine on Vancouver Island… This is a bad project with essentially zero public support, and the company needs to realize that and move on.”

According to Compliance’s website (www.theravenproject.ca), the Raven project proposes to remove metallurgical or steel-making coal from a site west of Buckley Bay ferry terminal.

The company claims the proposed Raven project would contribute approximately $1.1 billion to the economies of the surrounding regions. Compliance is looking at creating 200 construction jobs and 350 “well-paying, full-time mine, port and transportation jobs” if the project is approved.

In 2013 the EAO rejected the company’s initial application for the proposed coal mine saying “the application does not contain the required information and (the EAO) has decided not to accept the application for detailed review.”

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