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Letter to the editor - To all those concerned

To all those concerned,
The November 15, 2017 open house held in Elkford served as the Public Comment Period #1. Photo courtesy of Centermount.

To all those concerned,

Centermount welcomes the opportunity to answer questions with residents about the proposed Bingay Main Coal Project (the Project). Currently the Project is in the Pre-Application stage of a provincial and federal environmental assessment process. The environmental assessment Pre-Application stage is a planning and information gathering process where input and concerns from all stakeholders associated with the Project are collected by the government and proponent to ensure these are addressed and considered, in the Environmental Assessment Certificate Application. An environmental assessment is a decision support system used to determine ‘potential’ Project-related effects and to propose mitigation for these potential effects. This process is intended to identify mitigations that lead to no significant residual effects or cumulative effects. Therefore, in an Environmental Assessment, projects will change in response to this input as additional mitigations are suggested and additional options brought forward by regulatory working group members, First Nations, and other interested stakeholders, including the public.

An Environmental Assessment for the proposed Bingay Main Coal Project is underway and has not been presented to the public. What was presented at the Open House in November was a list of aspects (valued environmental, social, economic, health and heritage components) that will be assessed. Some examples of these are water quality, wildlife, air, noise, and recreation. The purpose of the Open House was to solicit input from the public on the list of aspects (components) to be assessed. Centermount wishes to thank all of the people who attended the event and brought forward their questions and comments on the Project that will be addressed in the next step of the process, a Public Consultation Report and submission of the draft Application Information Requirements (dAIR). This document outlines the scope and methods of what will be assessed and presented in the Application that will eventually be submitted to the provincial and federal governments for evaluation of the Project. Once the effects assessment is complete and the Application submitted, another Open House will present the results for the public to review and provide feedback.

Centermount encourages the participation of all concerned stakeholders and looks forward to continuing dialogue as data and the results of the effects assessment are made available.

To date, Centermount has heard many of your concerns, and would like to address these, in addition to some noted mis-information of the Project that has occurred through the many outlets by which people receive their news today. Some specific concerns raised are: use of foreign labour for the project, the loss of Blue Lake recreational area and that the project will be significantly expanded if approvals are granted.

Centermount is committed to using local and regional employees from the region for construction, operation and closure activities. The company has no desire to use foreign workers for all aspects of the Project, including mine construction and operation. This would not agree with the company’s core value of being a responsible company in the Elk Valley. The company has hired locally thus far and has opened a regional office in Elkford, which other projects and operating companies do not have. Centermount has also hired Canadian based consultants to carry out environmental and engineering studies for the Project. Centermount is a registered Canadian company with its head office in Vancouver and all of its employees currently live in the country and are Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Centermount accepts that the public may have reservations on this commitment however, the Company should be judged by the current hiring for the Project to date and not on speculation.

Centermount understands that the loss of the Blue Lake recreational area is of concern to many in the area. Centermount did not select this option without reviewing two other options for the storage of rock from the project, which were the construction of numerous rock stockpiles adjacent to Blue Lake or the storage of rock to the north which would have affected two additional watersheds and caused the loss of an environmentally sensitive wetland. All three options were analyzed to determine if a successful mitigation plan could be developed. The option involving the loss of wetlands and additional possible effects to water quality is very difficult to mitigate as wetlands are difficult to construct and take time to become effective sites. The option of having numerous small rock stock piles around Blue Lake would have negative aspects of increase disturbance and affecting another watershed further to the south of the Project.

The current option has been presented to gather feedback. Centermount is committed to establishing a working group to identify and recommend an alternate recreational location to compensate for the loss of Blue Lake. Centermount is committed to accepting the recommendations from this group. To date, two areas have been suggested to Centermount by the public; one being the Twin Meadows area and the water body located south of Blue Lake. Centermount will ask for further suggestions from the public via the working group on possible locations and improvements required to make the final selected location on acceptable mitigation for the loss of Blue Lake.

Another concern involves the size of the Project versus the size of the four coal licenses (Bingay Main, A, B and C) currently owned by Centermount which has led to the conclusion that the company is trying to do a small project at first that will be significantly expanded once approvals are granted. The Project is going through separate provincial and federal environmental assessment processes which are the most robust processes available and would not allow for any expansion without triggering a brand new approval process.

The Bingay Project requires the two following coal licenses, Bingay Main where the surface pit is located and Bingay B, where the plant site and waste rock storage pile is located. Centermount commits that there will be no future surface or underground mining using the Bingay B or C coal license areas as drilling has demonstrated that there are no coal resources on these licenses. This was part of the reason why the waste rock storage pile and plant were located on the Bingay B license. The Bingay C license expiration date is May 2018 and Centermount will not be renewing this license and without a license no mine development or exploration activities can occur in this area. Bingay A does have some potential for underground development. However, at this stage the geology is not well enough understood to even contemplate a mine plan in this area and several years of exploration will need to be completed before any underground evaluations can be completed. Currently there is not enough information to support development of the Bingay A area.

Engineering for the surface mine is currently continuing with a Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS). It is anticipated that the PFS will demonstrate that the operation of the mine can be extended beyond that of 12 years to possibly 17 years.

Within the Bingay Main and Bingay B license areas, Centermount is proposing to design the surface mine while still respecting the Elk River and Bingay Creek. There is no opportunity of making the current pit any larger than the one that will be part of the environmental assessment process without interfering with these two water courses. Centermount has already committed to having no direct impacts to these two water courses and hence the pit cannot be made any larger to either increase production rates or extend the life of the proposed project.

Centermount encourages people to come by our office in town and get your questions documented and answered. The company believes in a transparent process and presenting factual information to stakeholders and hopes that we can work together to ensure that the information about the Project is understood.

If you wish to be informed, please utilize this link for factual information The recent meeting arranged via social media and encouraged by Mayor and Council was advertised as an opportunity to voice concerns over the Project. It therefore only attracted those who wished to do so. Centermount remains open and eager to communicate on a more personal basis and such conversations will be logged appropriately; regardless of opinion. We are very early in this process and just passed Public comment Period #1. Please therefore bear in mind that ample opportunity will be given for further feedback and comments.

My contact number is 778-521-5288 (Office) and 250-433-6705 (Cell) and all communication will be logged and cascaded appropriately.


Karen Mills

Community Relations

Centermount Coal Ltd.

Phil McLachlan

About the Author: Phil McLachlan

Phil McLachlan is the editor at the Penticton Western News. He served as the reporter, and eventually editor of The Free Press newspaper in Fernie.
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