Is coal project beneficial to our community?

Writer has some more questions she wants Telkwa Coal to answer.

Upon reading the March 26 article ‘Telkwa coal founder insists it will be a small scale mine,’ I feel compelled to respond. Managing director of Telkwa Coal Limited (and Allegiance Coal Ltd.) Mark Gray made some statements that have left me curious about a few important aspects of his proposed project.

First of all, Gray makes reference to the Telkwa Coal Project as being a “small scale mine” and he goes on to say that “there’s no sense in developing something we simply cannot raise the capital to build.” This sentiment is contradicted in Allegiance’s “Market Update” that is posted on their website. They state that remaining under a 250,000 tons per year (tpa) threshold would “not trigger a Federal Government review.” Allegiance goes on to use the term “ramping up” when it refers to coal production/extraction by Stage 2 of the project’s goals.

This is something I am puzzled about. Are they planning on starting small only to avoid a review under the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act and/or a Federal Government review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act? Could this project expand gradually without a full environmental assessment being done?

Secondly, Gray stated that his company wishes to maintain a “small operating footprint.” It is important that we ask questions about land use prior to large projects so I did ask an Allegiance representative (months ago) about what needed to be done to set the stage for this Telkwa Coal project. Within the response I received, I remember hearing that thousands of hectares of land and trees would need to be disturbed. In my mind, that is a rather large footprint.

Finally, I have questions about water. This project is located near several creeks that are tied into the Telkwa River. The Telkwa River continues to flow into the Bulkley, then the Skeena. We are “upstream” and we are responsible to protect what is “downstream.” As a community, we are responsible for what happens to our salmon (and all others aquatic species) as well as our neighbours’ drinking water. Allegiance has stated that they will be drilling wells. The Telkwa Coal project will require enormous amounts of water for both a processing plant as well as a coal washing station. I would like Gray to review this process of water extraction as well as the consequences during an open house he will schedule.

Mark Gray’s company has put forward a two-page illustrated document that has been left at our Smithers Library for community to review. The document primarily outlines “how we use coal” and this is depicted using easy-to-follow clip art. What I was hoping to gather from Allegiance’s attempt to inform us are responses to the following questions: How will your company address ARD (Acid Rock Drainage) and the adverse affects to our watersheds? How will you deal with mine waste safely and effectively? How is your company assisting in the protection of the threatened Telkwa Mountains caribou herd in our forests and salmon in our rivers?

It is up to us to become better informed, to ask questions and to protect our valley’s watersheds, soil, wildlife and air. We have a company founder from Australia, employing directors from the Lower Mainland, to extract coal from our town of Telkwa, to sell their product to South Korea and Japan. My final question: is this a necessary and beneficial project for our community?

Liliana Pesce

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