The District of Elkford wants to make it clear; they do not want Bingay Mine to proceed.
At the most recent council meeting, representatives voted in favour of sending a letter of opposition to the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Mines, advising the provincial bodies to consider numerous negative effects that are nagging at the conscience of Elkford councillors.
“I haven’t talked to one person in this community that’s in favour of it,” said Councillor Craig Robinson, who put forward the motion at the Dec 11 meeting. “I didn’t think at this time the mine is a good fit for the valley.”
The councillor cited concerns about increased truck traffic and pollution as his main reasons for bringing forward the motion.
The Bingay Coal mine is proposed to be built approximately 21km north of Elkford, where the company, Centremount Coal Ltd, would extract two million tonnes of metallurgical coal annually to be shipped out to the Lower Mainland by rail. Centremount would be filling in Blue Lake, a popular recreation spot, as a result of the project.
“We’re concerned with the water for sure,” said Mayor Dean McKerracher, adding that he would insist that the company undertake an isotope water test from the mine site to see if the isotopes find their way into Elkford wells.
“If they do I would definitely be not supporting at all,” he said.
McKerracher explained that during the open house recently held, Centremount did not have clear answers for the District of Elkford.
“Every time they come, once a year or so, they give us a different mine plan,” said the mayor. “They haven’t really got an idea what they’re doing.”
McKerracher says that Centremount still hasn’t explained if they will be building a rail line, or whether they will be trucking coal through the town.
“Already, Highway 43 at shift change…is steady traffic,” said Coun. Steve Fairbairn, explaining that he counted over 200 vehicles at 5:30 in the morning one day.“What happens to the quality of life in Elkford?” he said.
If Centremount does not build the rail line, they would ship coal by truck through the town of Elkford.
He says that if this mine is to operate by long shifts, there would be camps established north of town, and Fairbairn is concerned about social issues that come with those shift patterns.
Those are only some of the concerns, but like the filling in of Blue Lake, neither are on the top of his long list of fears for Elkford if the mine is built.
His main concern, like the mayor, is selenium leaching into the water systems of the Elk Valley.
“Once you contaminate the water table it’s just too late,” he said, explaining that regardless of monitoring and safeguards in place, decades from now there is no guarantee that leaching can 100 per cent be prevented.
Fairbairn says that he was approached at the open house by SNC Lavalin, the engineering consultant responsible for the environmental assessment, and asked if Blue Lake was recreated somewhere else, would that be an acceptable mitigation effort.
“That’s an easy concern for a company to address,” said Fairbairn. “For me personally, if we were to lose Blue Lake, it would be gone, and we couldn’t replicate it.”
He says that his main concerns are also the effects that the potential rail line and mine would have on migratory patterns of animals in the Elk Valley.
He says that if snowmobiling has the possibility of impacting migration patterns of wildlife, a mine would have even greater ones.
While the district does not have any decision making powers on this file, they hope the letter will have sway with the province.
“The fact that a mining community is speaking up against it, means that there’s something wrong with the proposition,” said Fairbairn, explaining that he is not against mining, just this particular proposal. “I don’t see an upside to the valley to have this mine go in.”