Elk Valley residents gathered at Hosmer Community Hall on Thursday, June 4 to review Teck’s proposed Coal Mountain Phase 2 project, a coal mining operation approximately 15 km south of Sparwood that would extend the nearly complete Coal Mountain mining operation.
Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) representatives at both the federal and provincial level were on hand to help identify public concerns in addition to addressing the valued components they will be reviewing in the Environmental Assessment (AE).
“This whole public comment period is about ‘what do you think? Do we have the right valued component?’” Executive Project Director Karen Christie said. “When we get questions from the public, we look at if they’ve identified anything that our working group hasn’t.”
Thus far, the valued components in the project’s AE include assessing air quality and climate; environmental noise and vibration; terrain, surficial geology and soils; hydrogeology; surface water hydrology and surface water quality.
Coal Mountain Operation General Manager Ed Morash noted that similar to every mining project in the valley, water quality is likely to be the biggest issue.
Morash, however, emphasized that the Coal Mountain Phase 2 project is essential, as the original mining site is predicted to be complete by 2017.
“The life of mining at Coal Mountain has gotten to be quite short,” he noted. “We have less than three years before the reserve on that mountain is depleted.”
With approximately 300 employees working at the original site, maintaining Teck’s workforce is essential for Morash.
“It’s about longevity of jobs and having the ability to take that workforce and to take that resource and move it over to Coal Mountain Phase 2 and continue employment for those people.”
Nic Milligan, Manager of Community and Aboriginal Affairs, reiterated Morash’s remarks, adding, “Coal Mountain Phase 2 represents the future of our Coal Mountain operation. Our hope is as we work through the regulatory process, we will have Coal Mountain Phase 2 to develop and those employees will transfer over there.”
Despite Morash and Milligan’s concerns over the longevity of jobs in the valley, they both also emphasized the importance of community engagement in the project and understanding certain areas of disturbance.
The Teck employees stressed the need for public consultation.
“It is very important for us as a company to understand the communities concerns as we develop our project,” Milligan said. “We recognize that these communities support our operation. We want to hear what people have to say about our project and ensure that we use those concerns to guide our project plan.”
Although the Coal Mountain Phase 2 project is currently only in the pre-application stage, the public consultation allows the EAO to identify issues and values important to the community in addition to increasing an understanding for local circumstances — both essential components of the EA process.
The first public comment period will take place until June 24, and the public is encouraged to submit comments to www.eao.gov.bc.ca