EDITORIAL: Will Raven get off the ground?

Government says it has been told to expect application for the coal mine in the next few weeks

We did not think it was going to happen. And it still may not.

Compliance Energy says it will re-submit its application to operate a coal mine less than 50 km from downtown Qualicum Beach. In May of 2013, the company had its application rejected by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, saying “the application does not contain the required information and (the EAO) has decided not to accept the application for detailed review.”

The EAO confirmed last week the company has indicated it will re-submit in the next few weeks (see reporter Candace Wu’s story in today’s edition of The NEWS). If that happens, the EAO has 30 days to review the application. If the EAO deems it can go forward, a 180-day public consultation period will commence.

The lines have been drawn clearly. There are those who will tell you the mid-Island needs this Raven coal project and its estimated 350 full-time jobs. Others say there is little support in the community for such an operation.

If the EAO allows the application to move forward, the 180-day consultation period promises to be heated and, hopefully, informative. As it stands now, we see solid points on both sides of the issue.

The jobs, high-paying and economy boosting, are attractive. Yes, they would be spread amongst residents from all the communities within an hour of here, but the spin-off for grocery stores, restaurants — every retail outlet you can imagine — is undeniable. This creates, or solidifies, even more jobs.

However, there are current jobs to consider. Would a coal mine affect the 500-plus jobs now boosting the economy from the shellfish sector? Wasn’t there coal mining here in the past — with much fewer environmental regulations? Was that a death knell to the shellfish industry?

There are also traffic and safety concerns. The company says three trucks an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, would be transporting coal from the mine near Buckley Bay to Port Alberni. We’re not sure that’s something locals will accept.

We can guess Compliance looks at the world coal market on a daily basis. Perhaps Raven isn’t even viable financially. Regardless, we welcome the 180-day consultation period if Compliance makes it there. After so many missed self-imposed deadlines, we’re still not certain the application will even make it to Victoria.

— Editorial by John Harding