PORT ALBERNI—The Alberni Environmental Coaltion (AEC) has received a $28,000 grant for expert analysis of the Raven Underground Coal project’s environmental impact on the Port Alberni area. “This is a major project and its implications must be thoroughly analyzed and publicized to assess whether this is in the community’s best interest,” says Gary Swann, AEC director.
Dr. Tom Okey, an expert in marine biology will undertake to review the proposal to transport coal through Port Alberni by truck and load onto Panamax ships through a terminal to be built on Port authority lands in the harbour. Okey is the Director of Ecological Sciences for the West Coast Aquatic Management Board and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria, School of Environmental Studies. Of critical concern is the impact of coal in a marine environment especially as the proposed export terminal is in a highly sensitive ecosystem known as the Somass Estuary and home of the third largest salmon bearing river in British Columbia.
Recently honoured by the BC Lung Society, Bernadette Wyton is uniquely qualified because of her years of experience with Port Alberni’s air quality issues, to examine the impact of bringing coal for transport to Asia into Port Alberni’s harbour from the proposed mine site near Fanny Bay. Currently she chairs the Air Quality Council of the Port Alberni Regional District.
In addition, the AEC together with CoalWatch of Fanny Bay and the Comox Valley, engaged Dr. Joan Kuyek to review the Raven project with respect to social and economic impacts of the Raven mine, transport and port terminal. Former director of MiningWatch Canada, she also brings a wealth of experience and undertook a socio economic study of the Prosperity Mine ( Fish Lake ) which was turned down by the Federal government last fall.
Coordination of all three experts in both their evaluation of the mine proponent’s documents throughout the BC and Federal government’s harmonized environmental review process as well as ensuring the public has access to the expert analysis will be the job of Norine Messer. Norine is a Community Developer who has coordinated various initiatives that give voice to communities around resource management and community/ family health in Port Alberni and on the West Coast.
The grant is one of many received after the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and the BC Environmental Assessment Office (BCEAO) announced money was available last fall to assist the public in affected areas with analyzing the mine proponent’s project.
The next major stage in the mine’s environmental assessment process is expected “mid-spring” according to both governments when the public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposal.