Group presents petition to reopen public engagement on Telkwa Coal

Anika Gattiker and Jay Gilden at Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen’s Smithers office to present a petition for more public engagement on the Telkwa Coal project. (Submitted photo)

Anika Gattiker and Jay Gilden at Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen’s Smithers office to present a petition for more public engagement on the Telkwa Coal project. (Submitted photo)

A local citizens group, What Matters in Our Valley (WMIOV), has submitted a petition with over 400 names calling for the BC Environmental assessment office to hold a public forum on the proposed Tenas Coal mine (aka Telkwa Coal) project.

WMIOV believes that so far, the public engagement process has consisted of little more than a series of Open Houses where Telkwa Coal Ltd was provided with an opportunity to present its arguments in favour of the mine. The group is concerned that there have not been meaningful opportunities to explore the risks that the mine poses.

These risks include:

Potential release of acid rock drainage materials and heavy metals, including selenium into creeks adjoining the mine site and from there into the Telkwa River;

Potential damage to the fish that spawn in these waters including both salmon and steelhead. Historically, these creeks have been important spawning grounds for Telkwa steelhead and, therefore, for steelhead throughout the Skeena system;

Risk to employees and residents from a potential mine dam collapse that could put as many as 200 people in jeopardy and permanently damage the water quality in both the Telkwa and Bulkley Rivers;

Risk of the release of particulate matter and other air pollution into our airshed which would not only increase our pollution levels above our already high levels, but also threatens deposition of coal dust and other substances throughout the Valley;

Risk of noise pollution due to explosives used at the mine;

Risk to the Telkwa Caribou herd which is under imminent threat of extirpation.

Telkwa Coal Ltd. acknowledges these risks, but claims they do not pose a significant problem. Other experts say the company has failed to perform adequate studies to determine the full extent of the risk and/or is not assessing these issues in a way commensurate with the problems they pose.

WMIOV feels that residents deserve an opportunity to have a full airing of these issues before the province makes a decision on whether to approve this proposal. Specifically, the group believes that it is important a public forum be held prior to a draft assessment report being released and final public comment period.

The group has written to the Environmental Assessment Office asking that such a forum be organized and on January 4 presented local MLA Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship with the petition of 400+ names.

Both the Town of Smithers and the Village of Telkwa have submitted letters supporting the need for more public engagement and information provided in a fair and unbiased way.

Submitted by Anika Gattiker and Nancy Cody for What Matters In Our Valley (WMIOV)

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