NWP Coal is the company pushing the Crown Mountain project. (Photo courtesy of NWP Coal)

NWP Coal is the company pushing the Crown Mountain project. (Photo courtesy of NWP Coal)

NWP Coal completes environmental assessment document for mining project near Sparwood

The environmental assessment had been delayed for about a year

NWP Coal has completed the environmental assessment document for its Crown Mountain Coking Coal project near Sparwood after being delayed at least a year.

At a presentation to the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) on May 13, Dave Baines, manager environment and engagement for the project, said it was a big milestone.

“Every other time I’ve been here, I’ve been promising it would happen soon.”

“Now I’m saying it’s done,” he said.

According to his presentation, the document is 26 chapters with 4,600 pages plus appendices.

The document details management plans for how they’re going to deal with things like metal leaching, selenium, wildlife, weeds, and more, Baines said.

“One of the things we’re excited about is that the predictions at the end of the day is no additional significant adverse cumulative effects,” he said, adding that their understanding is that it will not have regional effects.

On the local scale, however, there may be impacts on Westslope Cutthroat Trout habitat and old growth and mature forest abundance and distribution.

Speaking about the trout impacts, he said that’s “something we’re going to have to work on and try and improve.”

He also spoke about selenium management, saying their goal is source control.

“We want to not let selenium get into the water rather than having selenium get in the water, capture the water, treat the water. We’re trying to stop it in the first place.”

By the end of April, the full environmental impact statement was submitted to the federal government. There are still reviews to be done on the government’s end, and Baines said they are projecting that sometime in June they will know whether the document is acceptable or not on the federal end.

If yes, it will go to the public comment period and technical review phase.

As for their submission to the B.C. government, the process has been slower due to NWP transitioning from the 2002 Environmental Assessment Act to the 2018 Environmental Assessment Act in April.

They are awaiting guidance from the provincial government on how to proceed given that switch, and expect the process to move forward through the summer.

One of the elements of the 2018 act, according to Baines’ presentation, is that it formalizes involvement of participating First Nations.

In response to a question from RDEK director David Wilks, mayor of Sparwood, Baines said that the Ktunaxa Nation supports them switching to the 2018 act, but are not supportive of the project more broadly.

Director Ange Qualizza, mayor of Fernie, said that in the future she would like to see written letters regarding engagement signed by the Ktunaxa Nation.

Qualizza also asked about housing for the project, for which there is an expected peak construction workforce of 500, and an operational workforce of 350.

Baines said there is no concrete housing plan for the project.

“We are a small company in a regulatory process. For us to build an apartment building would be a bust in our business model. We cant take that kind of step.”

He added that: “We can support the communities, we can be part of the solution.”

“Fair to say, I know in Elkford and Sparwood, possibly Fernie, there’s a lot of workers who work in Fort McMurray. And one of the things I’d like to do is entice those workers home.”

Baines said they are hoping to have all certificates in hand by the end of 2024, after which 18 months to two years of construction can begin, followed by operations by the end of 2026.

The Crown Mountain Coking Coal project expects to run for 15 years, producing about 30 million tonnes of coal with two million tonnes produced a year.

READ MORE: Crown Mountain coal project pushed back about a year

READ MORE: Crown Mountain coal project on track for 2023 construction

READ MORE: Crown Mountain to submit environmental assessment in Spring 2021

READ MORE: Crown Mountain project inches forward


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josh.fischlin@thefreepress.ca

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