What Matters in Our Valley set up shop outside of the open house on June 1 to voice their concerns about the project and give the public a different perspective. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Public comment period open for Telkwa coal mine environmental review

Mine opponents set up counter-information booth outside company’s open house

The public has a chance to have their views and opinions on a proposed coal mine in Telkwa heard.

Telkwa Coal has proposed the Tenas Project, an open-pit coal mine 25 kilometres south of Smithers, near Telkwa.

The Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) is currently holding a public comment period on the project from May 19 – July 3.

The EAO held an open house with information on the proposed project June 1 at the Telkwa Community Hall. Almost 60 people walked through the doors.

Telkwa Coal filed its Environmental Assessment Certificate Application to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office in February.

“We completed the EA application which was a mammoth task,” said Mark Gray, Telkwa Coal CEO. “This is our fourth open house, we have maintained regular contact, aside from during the pandemic where we had a virtual open house, we have seen a lot of people from the community come out and be engaged, look at our storyboards.”

He is expecting a lot of people to submit their comments to the Environmental Assessment Office.

“The citizens of the Bulkley Valley take a lot of interest in the industrial development of any time, not just a coal mine, but anything that involves moving earth and discharging material into the environment so I expect the citizens to consider what is happening very carefully and have their comment in where necessary.”

The B.C. review process is nine months according to the Environmental Assessment Act. By regulation, it includes one to two months of screening, six months of review and two months for a decision by the environment and energy, mining and natural resources ministries, respectively.

If an environmental certificate is issued, the company will be able to apply for its mine and environmental management permits. The current project schedule estimates having those permits by the second quarter of 2024, followed by a year and a half of mine construction with operations beginning in 2026.

The company estimates a 20-year lifespan for the mine, which it says will employ 170 full-time equivalent employees and support 255 full-time equivalent indirect jobs.

Outside of Wednesday’s open house, a group of concerned citizens set up a table to voice their objections to the project.

The group is worried about the impacts on the water, environment and also the coal dust from the mine pit and the noise pollution from transporting material and explosives that will be used to blast rock.

Co-chair of What Matters in Our Valley Nancy Cody said they saw this as an opportunity for the public to become more aware of their website, brochure, and the potential risks of this proposed mine to the things they love and value the most.

“It was a great way to encourage the public to engage, care and be part of the process,” she said.

She said many group members did go into the open house and ask questions.

“For me the process was confusing and frustrating,” she said. “The EAO is present and hosts the open house but only the company perspective is provided. The answers provided by the company and their consultants were not the same as we are getting from the experts we have hired to review the mine application. The disparity was disheartening to say the least.”

Overall, she was pleased they were able to be set up outside of the open house.

“Our presence will hopefully encourage people to become informed and more aware of the many risks associated with this proposed mine. The reports written by the expert consultants who are currently reviewing the mine plan will be posted on our website before the July 3 end of the public comment period.”

-with files from Thom Barker

 

(Marisca Bakker photo)

(Marisca Bakker photo)