“The water treatment will assure that the quality of this water will protect the shellfish.”
To the Introduction: The Raven and the Oysters:
John Tapics is the CEO of Compliance Energy Corporation which has a 60% interest in the Raven Coal Project. The remaining 40% interest is owned by I-Comox Coal Inc. which is a subsidiary of Iotochu Corporation of Japan and by L.G. Investments Canada Limited which is a subsidiary of L.G. International of Korea.
LOUIS: How will the Raven Coal Project be designed to protect ground and surface water?
JOHN: It starts with baseline information. We started in April or May of 2009 and used that baseline information to influence the design of the project. We have quite a few monitor wells and quite a few water stations on Cowie Creek. We built a ground water model to see the quality of water that will be discharged into Cowie Creek. Our primary requirement will be to meet or beat three sets of standards. First, the Fish and Water Aquatic Guidelines; secondly the Canadian Drinking Water Standards and finally, Site Specific Water Standards. This is part of the environmental and approval process. We are building a water treatment plant and most of the water will be pumped from underground to keep the mine dry and then it will be treated by the water treatment plant before it goes into Cowie Creek. The water will meet the provincial and federal standards and be better than municipal standards.
LOUIS: How will the Raven Coal Project be designed to protect Baynes Sound shellfish?
JOHN: The primary method is the water treatment and the primary concern is the water coming down from Cowie Creek. The water treatment will assure that the quality of this water will protect the shellfish. The second part deals with ground water and our studies predict there won’t be an impact by groundwater on the shellfish. Underground mining is too deep and only affects the deep water [aquifers] whereas ground water comes from surficial water. The deep water will take tens of thousands of years to go into Baynes Sound.
LOUIS: Is the rail transportation option still on the table?
JOHN: It is not, in part because the environmental assessment process requires that you be specific about what the plans are and, in the final analysis, it would have cost too much to upgrade the line from the Comox Valley to Port Alberni. We considered the route around the North side of Comox Lake to Port Alberni but discounted it because of the cost of upgrading the road and the greater distance involved in transporting the coal, as well as the combination of logging traffic and our two to three trucks per hour. We also considered a route West from the Rosewall Creek Horne Lake area and though it would have been a little shorter, the maximum speed would have been around 35 km per hour and that would have been too slow.
LOUIS: What are the four main ways in which the project will protect the environment?
JOHN: The water treatment plant and fresh water aquatics. The surface facilities are in the upper watershed of Cowie Creek in a valley behind a ridge that will minimize visual and auditory pollution. Instead of the 200 hectare footprint, our facilities will only use 78 hectares of surface land. There are two natural barriers to sea-going salmon and trout; there is a barrier 1.6 km up the Cowie Creek for chum salmon and at the four to five km area, there is a natural barrier for coho salmon. There is also an ephemeral tributary going into Cowie Creek where our facilities will be located. No fish have been found there but we are proposing a fish habitat and compensation program and will rebuild any habitat that is disturbed at the ephemeral creek. Finally, we will pump treated water back into the mine if it becomes necessary, but it probably won’t be necessary. It is just a possibility.
LOUIS: What do you think are the biggest challenges for the Raven Coal Project in protecting the environment?
JOHN: To ensure that the quality of the water that is discharged meets all the requirements and hopefully is better than those requirements.
LOUIS: If unforeseen environmental damage occurs to the aquifers or Baynes Sound that is of a serious nature, is the company prepared to halt operations in order to discover the cause and rectify the situation?
JOHN: Yes. The long answer is that Raven will have a monitoring system in place to see any incremental change so that Raven can predict any problems. We will have monitoring wells on the east side of the project and will monitor first for domestic water quality and secondly for the quality of water entering Baynes Sound. There will also be ongoing monitoring of the water quality of Cowie Creek. We can adjust the operations to make sure that there is no long term adverse affects on Cowie Creek or Baynes Sound.
To the interview with Mathew Wright, BC Shellfish Growers Association
To the Introduction: The Raven and the Oysters