Opinion

Letter: Coal facts missing

I feel compelled to respond to the recent public out cry against the proposed development of the Raven Coal Mine west of Buckley Bay BC.

I feel much of the resentment is predicated on a lack of knowledge of the facts. The other factor is the ‘Band Wagon Effect’ or the need to identify oneself with a cause with the goal of saving the land from some perceived threat.

Much misinformation helps to stimulate the ‘cause’ and those with time on their hands are drawn in to what appears to be a looming catastrophe.

In the late 1800’s Union Bay was a booming Coal Port, I remember seeing the remnants of the loading facility on the Point that juts out into the Ocean beyond the North side of town. Pieces of coal littered the beach and probably some are still there. At that time coal was shipped, processed and stored between the town and the beach.

At this time the world knew nothing of environmental safeguards. Today the world is very different. British Columbia is home to some of the strictest and most comprehensive environmental legislation in the world, especially in the mining industry.

In recent years Vancouver Island has seen a large in migration of people with financial means derived from other parts of the country; during their younger working lives they were probably not so concerned about coal mining. Now with idle time they have resources to devote to saving the earth.

Sprawling subdivisions are growing up unchecked along the east coast of Vancouver Island. I find it amazing that no environmental impact studies are ever considered before starting a 300 home subdivision, no water samples taken, no protests launched. Indeed if the runoff from these sites was sampled it would probably exceed that which would be allowed from a coal mine. Population is growing and sewage treatment is generally still only at the primary level, upgrading is only considered if the money is there, no thought is given to damming up a lake on Mount Arrowsmith if it is to provide water for some politician’s friend who wants to start a new subdivision. In reality coal is a benign mineral; it can be eaten if it is ground up, with beneficial effects. Really, in Russia, it is sold in little packets in the pharmacy, as an antidote for hangovers and stomach upsets.

If anyone were to look at the plans they would see the proposed mine has a very small footprint; smaller than the average subdivision. In this climate the only coal dust is underground in the mine, any on surface settles within a hundred feet. There is more dust on a mile of logging road than at an operating coal mine. Again the dust is benign except inside the mine.

We have and continue to have all manner of logging trucks on our highways, no one even seems to notice, and they are either ignored or accepted. However the mention of a coal truck sends out waves of concern. In reality there is no difference.  Loads of coal are covered even though it’s largely unnecessary. The sad reality is that those people who stand to benefit from this mine are the younger hard working people of this community, whose who have not already been forced to move to Alberta in order to earn enough money to properly raise their children.

The people who stand to benefit from a badly needed primary industry are too busy working and raising their children to spare time for the fine art of organizing protest movements. Do you protesters realize that if this coal is not mined here it will be mined some were else in the world with far less regard for the environment.

Mining coal underground has no affect what so ever on the marine environment. In order to receive a permit to process coal the operator has to prove via environmental monitoring no effect on ground water or surface discharge water is taking place or will occur in the future.

I hope this project can be afforded a balanced assessment with decisions not being made in favour of those with the loudest voices.

Jim McMillan

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