Say No to Dirty Coal: Stop the Raven Coal Mine

Thursday, January 6, 2011 (All day)

From the Comox Valley to Port Alberni, local citizens are standing up against coal mining on Vancouver Island. Join with the people of these communities and say “No” to the proposed Raven Coal Mine. Located in the Comox Valley on the east side of the Island, the Raven Underground Coal Mine would extract nearly 30 million tonnes of rock and coal over a 16 year period. Slightly less than half of this would be High Volatile A-Bituminous coal.

The proponent, Compliance Energy Corporation, suggests that this coal will be used primarily for the production of steel—a material essential for schools, hospitals and infrastructure. However, High Volatile coal can only be used to make steel when mixed with higher grade coal, and decisions around such uses are largely out of Compliance's control (once on the market, the buyer can use the coal for any purpose). On its own, the coal is ideal for burning in coal-fired power plants: the most carbon-intensive form of energy in the world. Although the company's public relations strategy has focused on producing coal for steel, it's just as likely that coal from the Raven mine could be burned for energy.

If this coal is exported and burned it would add over 80 million tonnes of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. To put that in perspective, every citizen in Victoria and Nanaimo would need to drive Hummers all the way around the world at the same time to release the same amount of carbon dioxide!

In addition to its potential impact on global climate change, the Raven Mine will have significant local environmental impacts. The proposal threatens sensitive salmon habitat, the marine ecosystem in nearby Baynes Sound (4 - 5 km away), as well as local air and water quality. The Raven Mine would also jeopardize sustainable economic activities like tourism, fishing, and the world-famous Fanny Bay shellfish industry. Plus, the associated road transportation would create traffic safety issues.

Of the rock and coal that would be extracted from the mine, more than half (16.8 million tonnes over 16 years) will be waste material piled above ground, uncovered and exposed to the elements. This is an ideal situation for heavy metal and acid rock drainage, which are known to be serious long-term problems in coal communities around the world. Acid rock drainage—the process through which exposed sulphides combine with oxygen to create sulpheric acid—is often carried into local creeks, rivers, and aquiphers. It has the potential to devastate local riparian and marine ecosystems and destroy local water quality.

Cowie Creek, which is near the proposed mine and waste-rock disposal sites, feeds into the nutrient-rich waters of Baynes Sound. Any contamination to the tributaries running into Baynes Sound will have a negative impact on the Baynes Sound watershed as a whole, threatening aquatic life and putting the regionally-important Baynes Sound shellfish aquaculture industry at risk. This industry employs over 600 people and produces 39 per cent of the oysters and 55 per cent of the Manila clams in British Columbia. These jobs could be wiped out by the Raven Coal project, and as such the mine is heavily opposed by the BC Shellfish Growers Association.

The local impacts of the Raven Mine would extend beyond the Comox Valley. From the mine site, the coal will be trucked south and west to the port at Port Alberni. This would put 52,000 giant B-Train trucks (three trucks per hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year) on the Island's highways. The general safety on Highway 19 and Highway 4 would impacted, and the maintenance of these highways would be a huge burden on taxpayers (the trucks would degrade the asphalt far more rapidly than regular traffic).

After weaving between businesses, neighbourhoods and hospitals, the trucks will reach the port site: a beautiful harbour near an area recently redeveloped as a tourism destination, just 50 metres from a residential area. Here the coal will be loaded onto tankers so large that parts of the Alberni Inlet (a critical salmon migration route) will require dredging. The ships will exit the inlet, pass through the Broken Group Islands in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and enter the open ocean. The potential impacts on wildlife—including salmon, birds and even whales—are endless and of serious concern.

Nothing about this proposal is good; it is simply a bad idea. Any employment that the mine will create is strongly outweighed by the number of sustainable jobs that it will jeopardize. The risk to the local environment and economy is absolutely unnacceptable. The proponents need to realize that it's 2012, not 1912: the time of mining coal is over.

Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel on earth, and it has no place in a sustainable future. Vancouver Island needs to be a place of innovation and creative solutions, rather than stepping backward into archaic, environmentally destructive, unsustainable industries that are a proven cause of global climate change.

It is our responsibility to stand with local citizens of the Comox and Alberni Valleys who have voiced strong and clear opposition to the Raven Underground Coal Mine. As the final submissions are made by the proponent to the federal and provincial assessment agencies (expected winter 2012 and spring 2013), we must speak up loudly and let Compliance Energy and our elected officials know that Vancouver Island doesn't want a new coal mine.

Stay tuned for more information on public comment periods, open houses and letter-writing tools.

For more information and a map of the project's impacts, read The Top Ten Reasons to be Concerned about the Raven Coal Mine.

Also, check out the special Wilderness Committee video on local opposition to this ill-conceived and short-sighted proposal.

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