Give mitigation a chance for Telkwa Coal

Give mitigation a chance for Telkwa Coal

Writer says Telkwa Coal Project proposal needs to come up with a plan for any acid rock drainage.


My letter is prompted by ‘Telkwa Coal Project has high hazard risk with no trade-off compensation,’ a letter written by Glenda Ferris (published Oct. 18) about Allegiance Coal Limited interest in developing a coal mine.

I respect Ms. Ferris and her involvement in acid rock drainage as it pertains to mines. But it is unfair to be so adverse to the project before the company has proposed a mining and mitigation plan.

The potential for acid rock drainage (ARD), and prevention and mitigation methods in open pit mining through mine construction, operation and closure phases is now well understood. It is a requirement of the B.C. and Canadian governments that companies proposing mine projects understand the ARD potential and that they propose appropriate mitigation methods to prevent effects on rivers, streams, fish and people.

Coal was mined on a small scale at Telkwa more or less continuously from 1918 to 1982, more than 60 years. Production came from several underground workings and two small open pits. Was there acidic drainage? The proposed mine would produce coal from the same rock formation but not precisely the same strata so we cannot fully apply the lessons of the past. It is possible that acidic runoff will occur. At some metal mines acidic runoff can leach metals that occur in sub-economic amounts. However, unlike metal mines the coal strata at Telkwa likely contain a very low level of metals. This is something the company should investigate.

If, despite the best formulated mine plan, acid drainage should occur at Telkwa, I take an optimistic view of society’s ability to deal with it. A society that includes responsible corporations, government agencies and individuals like Glenda Ferris, because they are all composed of people who want the best for our world.

Where I strongly disagree with Ms. Ferris is the assertion there will be no trade-off compensation. This is good opportunity for a cash-strapped community. Mines produce new wealth and skilled people, by work experience and apprenticeship programs. Those skills are transferable to other jobs and businesses. There are many examples in the Bulkley Valley of people and businesses who got their start at Equity Silver, Bell Copper, Granisle and other mines in the region.

Paul Wojdak