SIMON NATTRASS: Coal – not in anyone’s backyard, thank you very much

Think about coal for a moment. What comes to mind — 18th century industrial barons? Towering black plumes of smoke? Steam engines?

Think about coal for a moment. What comes to mind — 18th century industrial barons? Towering black plumes of smoke? Steam engines?

For many who have never even spoken of coal except as a Christmas gift for naughty kids, the idea that its use continues despite alternatives is baffling. In fact, two new mines are currently seeking approval on the southern Island. Both would be located in the heart of the Comox Valley, just a few hours drive from The Capital. Named after the animals whose habitat they threaten, Raven underground mine and Bear open pit mine are proposed by Compliance Energy Corporation. Meant to start operations in 2011, the projects have been mired in bad PR while awaiting approval from the BC Environmental Assessment Office.

The devastation that comes with mining is old news for a public bombarded with apocalyptic images of the Alberta tar sands landscape. Living near a mine means a higher risk of contracting cardiopulmonary, lung and kidney diseases, hypertension and mercury poisoning, yet CEC and partners continue to claim the mines pose no risk. Raven and Bear would also gouge deep into the Valley’s watershed, threatening not only human and nonhuman inhabitants, but the holiest of the holy: the local economy. It should come as no surprise that a majority of Comox Valley residents oppose the mines.

While a three hour drive doesn’t exactly place the Raven and Bear mines in our back yard, it’s time to make these projects our problem before this century’s Black Gold Rush makes its way to our neck of the woods. M

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