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UPDATE: Barlow to speak against Raven coal mine, Sept. 23

The Council of Canadians is opposed to the Raven underground coal mine which would be located just 20 kilometres south of Courtenay and about 5 kilometres from Baynes Sound in the Cowie Creek and Tsable River drainages. (Baynes Sound is the channel between Denman Island and Vancouver Island. The sound is a narrow western off-shoot of the Strait of Georgia that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland of British Columbia.) The mine would be 3,100-hectares in size, with a surface footprint of about 200-hectares. It would produce up to 1.1 million tonnes of highly volatile bituminous coal each year to be shipped to Asian markets. It’s estimated lifespan is just 16 or 17 years, while the damage it could do is permanent.

4,800 WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS OF CONCERN ABOUT THE PROPOSED RAVEN COAL MINE: John Snyder of CoalWatch Comox Valley wrote in the Alberni Valley News this summer, “With the public consultation period on the proposed coal mine near Fanny Bay now completed, a review of the submitted comments paints a clear picture. An overwhelming majority of the nearly 4,800 written submissions thus far in the two comment periods oppose or have concerns about the proposed coal mine project. The common thread in the recent public meetings held in Courtenay, Port Alberni and Union Bay was this coal mine proposal is not what the residents in the Comox Valley and Port Alberni see as a vision for sustainable development in our communities. Despite the evidence of opposition and concern, the federal and provincial regulators say that they have no choice but to continue with the environmental assessment of the project.”

CLIMATE AND WATER CONCERNS: Ray Grigg recently wrote in the Montreal Gazette, “The two communities of Campbell River and the Comox Valley both have problems with coal, the former with Quinsam Coal that is almost certainly polluting an important watershed, and the latter with a proposed Raven coal mine that will inevitably cause similar environmental problems if it is allowed to proceed. But the fundamental problem with coal is that it is a dirty and polluting fuel. When burned, coal emits toxic materials that compromise human health – every year coal kills 13,000 American prematurely, incurring $100 billion in health costs – and it is the major global source of carbon dioxide emissions. Coal mines are also a source of methane – whether surface or underground, they are essentially open methane wells that release large quantities of this harmful greenhouse gas. If less coal were mined, this would force up its price, thus encouraging efficiencies and cleaner alternatives.” And the Comox Valley Record reports, “Opponents say the mine poses a threat to air and water quality, and to salmon habitats and the shellfish industry in Fanny Bay. Polluting the Cowie Creek watershed is another concern, as is trucking coal along the Inland Highway to Port Alberni. …Mike Morel, a biologist from Denman Island, suggests the study area is too small and should include, at minimum, all Raven streams and wetlands. …Rudy Friesen said coal burned overseas will produce about two million tons of carbon dioxide a year while the Raven mine operates.”

MORE RIGOROUS ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT DEMANDED: John Snyder’s letter to the editor continues, “CoalWatch along with numerous community groups, labour councils, local governments, and thousands of British Columbians have shown support for a more rigorous review, an independent review panel with public hearings. It’s time that our local MPs and MLAs listen to the public demand for a more rigorous review, and support the call for an independent review panel with public hearings. They need to lobby on our behalf at both the federal and provincial ministerial levels of government. If the public is forced to endure an environmental assessment on this ill conceived project, at least we should have the most rigorous review currently available. I urge the public to call their MP and MLA and ask for their support of an independent review panel with public hearings on the Raven Coal Mine Project.” The Comox Valley Record reported in early-June that, “Campbell Connor (the vice-president of Coal Watch Comox Valley has requested) a full expert panel review, along with aquifer mapping and modelling, as the environmental assessment phase of the proposed Raven underground coal mine progresses. …(He) said a technical committee has compiled a list of ‘very serious gaps’ in the process after reviewing the draft Application Information Requirements (AIR). ‘The process we’re going through at this moment is less than that which we deserve,’ Connor said.” (As we have previously noted, the Harper government intends to cut 43 percent of the funding and one-third of the full-time staff of the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency, severely reducing the capacity of this federal body that reviews projects like the Raven coal mine.)

The Comox Valley chapter of the Council of Canadians is opposing the proposed mine. Last year, it presented its Community Action award to Coalwatch for its work against the Raven coal mine. Chapter activist Gwyn Frayne said, “The Council of Canadians is very committed to protecting our water and environment; we believe the Raven coal mine threatens both.” In late-July, the Comox Valley chapter also joined a ‘peaceful direct action’ coalition concerned about the proposed mine. The coalition includes Nocoalmine.net, the World Community Development Education Society, Comox Valley Water Watch, Comox Valley Sierra Club, and Comox Valley CoalWatch. On Friday September 23, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be speaking in Comox Valley in opposition to the coal mine.

For campaign blogs on the Raven coal mine, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22raven+coal%22.