Letters to the Editor, The Interior News

Telkwa Coal needs full environmental assessment

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Writer says sometimes public pressure does have some effect. Jul. 20th, 2018


Editor,

Sometimes public pressure does have some effect.

As we pointed out in our last opinion letter in The Interior News (Feb. 15, 2018), Allegiance Coal, the Australian company that owns the Telkwa Coal open pit mine proposal, has repeatedly stated over the last 12 months that it plans to initiate operations at a level just below the B.C. Environmental Assessment Act’s threshold of 250,000 tonnes per year. At the same time, it has promoted its plan to investors and others as including a phased build-up that would reach as high as 1.75 million tonnes per year. We believed that the sub-250,000 tonne figure was an attempt to avoid the B.C. Environmental Assessment Act requirements. Allegiance actually seemed to state as much in its investor communications saying it wanted to take advantage of the more “defined” process available through the Mines Act.

Given the sensitivity of the location of the proposed mine near the confluence of the Bulkley and Telkwa Rivers and the Village of Telkwa, as well as the known threats posed by the potential for acid rock drainage from this mine, we asked that the provincial government exercise its discretion to require a full environmental assessment not withstanding Allegiance’s claims about the initial size of the mine.

As recently as the open house that occurred in Telkwa on May 23, Allegiance continued to insist that it planned to start operations at the below 250,000 tonne level and that it therefore did not need a full EA. During this time, many people wrote letters to the Ministry of the Environment asking that this effort to avoid its requirements be rejected.

Now, Allegiance has decided to give up this pretext due to what it terms “stakeholder” concerns. Allegiance is now openly acknowledging that it will start production at a much higher level, currently identified as 750,000 tonnes per year.

At the same time, despite its previously identified ultimate target of 1.5-1.75 million tonnes per year, Allegiance’s currently stated production objective will be below the 1,000,000 tonne threshold for a federally required Environmental Assessment (Allegiance is careful to point this out to the investor community). Thus, while the proclaimed increased size of the project will mean the proposal will be subject to provincial environmental assessment, it still won’t trigger a federal EA and we are concerned that federal interests like fisheries may not be fully examined

In any event, this appears to us to be a victory for those who want to make sure that if this mine is approved, there is a full analysis of and public consultation about its significant risks. These risks include those posed to our water through acid rock drainage and related leaching of heavy metals that are toxic to fish, to our air, to wildlife including the caribou recovery effort, and to Telkwa and the surrounding Bulkley Valley communities.

Jay Gilden

For What Matters in our Valley 

Telkwa Coal Project has high hazard risk with no trade-off compensation

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Glenda Ferris has looked at past proposals and sees too much acidic risk with Telkwa Coal Project. Oct. 18th, 2017 

Editor,

The Telkwa Coal Project mine proposal being promoted by Allegiance Coal Limited is a major mine development. Within the legal framework of British Columbia, an Environmental Assessment process and Approval are required before any “operational permits” are issued to this company. There have been four decades of varying mine development proposals at this site, none of which proceeded to a BCEAO/BC Environmental Office Approval, let alone “permits.”

Acid Rock Drainage

Due to previous site inventory work — lab test results and field trials — we know that many rock types within the mine waste rock stream at this site contain sufficient sulphide mineralization to generate ARD (acid rock drainage). In simple terms, the minerals will oxidize into sulfide-state and when any water (rain, snowmelt, groundwater) flows to those locations, ARD will be the result. In addition, heavy metals such as manganese will be entrained within the acidic flows. Acidity levels will be sufficient to adversely affect the Telkwa and Bulkley Rivers if mitigation strategies are not effective.

Mine Site Inventory

Field trials on site were completed during the 1990s using silt stone, green sandstone and mudstone that are waste products at this mine site. The small deposits went acidic within 18 months. Another waste product identified has been the Coarse Rejects and the “wash stream waste,” both of which tested as acid generating. Several million tonnes of mine waste will be produced throughout the Telkwa Coal mine life; that mine waste will remain after the company is long gone.

Containment of Hazards for Rivers’ Safety

One of the primary principles with the B.C. ARD guidelines is that mine site ARD must be contained through ponds and/or collection systems. The principle of containment cannot be guaranteed at this mine site. At Telkwa Coal the coal seams are layered between aforementioned mudstones, sandstones, sand and gravels. This site condition means that flooded open pits, collection ponds and/or tailings

impoundment pond water levels may not be maintained through time, since sand and gravel lenses will provide drainage pathways to both the Bulkley and Telkwa Rivers.

Mitigation

If water covers are the “mitigation” for ARD-risks to prevent oxidation of sulfide minerals, and, due to site geology, water covers cannot be guaranteed, ARD will proceed due to wetdry cycle and groundwater discharges.

Major mine developments are mine waste storage facilities, forever. Waste rock, coal spoils and coal-wash rejects are the hazards. Included into this is the knowledge of past proposals have included eight open pits within the mine site footprint. Those pit walls will also become a hazard for ARD, since they may not retain a water cover over all sulphide-rock type layers year round.

Trade-off, jobs for long term damage?

I have assessed and reviewed three different mine proposals at this Telkwa Site. All of them represented several levels of high hazard conditions with no “trade-off” compensation that would balance the damage done nor the risks to our watersheds.

Sincerely,

Glenda Ferris

Houston

No right to place watershed in harm’s way

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Writer says the risks of coal mine development near Telkwa are too high for area rivers. 

Apr. 4th, 2018

Editor

As a regional environmental advocate, I participated in the Manalta Coal Ltd. British Columbia Environmental Assessment process, 1996-98. I was a member of the ARD/ML (Acid Rock Drainage and Metals Leaching) Working Group chaired by Craig Stewart, MoE/Protection Branch. During this past assessment of the proposed coal mine, there was detailed evaluation of the Tenas Pit and the two other additional adjacent coal deposits at the site. Several technical inventories are known due to our past work; these open pit coal deposits are not being accurately described by the Allegiance Coal Ltd. spokesperson.

First, the Tenas Pit has been measured at 3.6 km long; 1.3 km wide; 120 metres depth. This pit is not “a small operating footprint.” The final configuration of the exhausted open pit with exposed pit walls and pit waste rock dumps should be considered as a full operational mine life outcome.

This is a fact, not an opinion. This open pit has been proposed to be divided into three operational zones due to the extensive size and management requirements for stability of pit walls and lateral waste rock deposition. Past estimates for raw coal production are 20 million tonnes with 123 million cubic meters of waste rock and waste coal that will be placed in waste rock dumps immediately adjacent to the southern pit wall. *Ministry of Energy Mines Report 1997, page 2.

Backfilling of waste rock into the Tenas Pit cannot occur until one section of the pit is completely excavated; Waste rock backfill with partial flooding will result in a mined-out landscape of waste dumps and exposed pit walls, not a “lake.”

According to the Manalta Strip Ratio diagram, page 15 of the Allegiance Investor Report; October 2016, the strip ratio ranges between 0:1 all the way up to 20:1, that is, for every tonne of raw coal excavated, there will be 20 tonnes of waste rock. The so-called average for Strip Ratio has been estimated at 5.8 to 1. The geochemistry of the waste rock tonnage shows that there is little NP/neutralizing potential and substantial amounts of sulphide sulphur that will generate ARD/Acid Rock Drainage. The waste rock dumps created by the Tenas Open Pit operations alone would exceed 123 million tonnes at an NPR/Neutralization Potential Ratio of 1.74 — acid generating. Waste coal tonnage could increase this estimated mine waste volume.

Why do we care about mine waste? Because the waste rock and waste coal will be stored on site, forever. The coal will be sold and shipped, the mine waste stays in our valley.

The coal fields of Telkwa have been the location of extremely small-volume coal extraction with almost no waste rock produced and only small surface disturbance. While exposed coal seams and “shallow” coal has been extracted as thermal coal sales, we should all begin to understand that even at 240,000 tonnes of washed coal per year, the Mine Plan and the Waste Handling Plan will change the character and profoundly alter this landscape.

At average strip ratio and at 240,000 tonnes of washed coal annually, there will be at least 1,392,000 cubic metres of waste rock produced every year and placed into waste rock dumps along the southern edge of the Tenas Pit for 3.6 km and more. And there will also be mine waste produced by the Coal Processing Plant (coarse rejects and tailings fines) plus waste water from the Coal Washing Station.

The hazards of known, laboratory confirmed, acid rock drainage and the environmental risks of coal mine development all report to the watershed — to our rivers. No “community” or civil society sector has the right to place our watersheds in harm’s way. 

Glenda Ferris

Recipient of the Mining Association of BC “Award for B.C. Mining Sustainable Development”, 2001

Houston

Coalmine? No thank-you!

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Writer believes water and dust issues with a coalmine in Telkwa will ruin valley. 

Apr. 25th, 2018

Editor,

Years ago, we moved to Telkwa from Estevan, Sask., where we already experienced open pit coal mining.

Dust everywhere!

Now Allegiance is planning an open pit coalmine approximately seven kilometres from our subdivision, hauling coal, two trucks every hour, four days a week, day and night along the existing Coalmine Road.

During a talk with Dan Farmer and Angela Waterman of Allegiance, we also voiced our concerns about our well water which comes from the Goathorn Creek. We were told not to worry, waste water would go via pipeline directly into the Telkwa River, but should we have problems with our water, we could apply for town water.

A pipeline to Telkwa? Town water? Not very reassuring answers.

They also spoke of 40-50 jobs that will be created by having a mine here. But what about the jobs that might be lost in the fishing and tourism industry because of noise and water pollution?

We do not want to watch Allegiance come here and destroy our scenic Bulkley Valley!

We love our home in beautiful Telkwa, where we can enjoy the outdoors and the wildlife.

A coal mine here, no thank-you!

Gabriele Bogner-Schimke 

Telkwa 

Is coal project beneficial to our community?

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

Apr. 4th, 2018 

Editor,

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 

Fake News in Telkwa?

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Writer says Telkwa Coal mine would present stark contrast to video productions on Telkwa website. 

Dec. 6th, 2017 

Editor,

Maybe not “fake news” as we have come to know the term but if I hadn’t asked a lot of questions at the “limited” invitation open house that Allegiance Coal representatives held Nov. 8, I would have left there with quite a positive picture of a “small coal mine project” that would hardly be noticeable by the residents of our valley.

In reality, the proposed mine at the Tenas Pit across the Goat Horn Creek would present a stark contrast to the lovely video productions describing our community’s attributes and lifestyle that appear on the Telkwa Village website.

An open pit coal mine, a wash plant, a water treatment plant and a sediment pond to contain the acid rock drainage. Trucks hauling coal down Coalmine and Lawson Roads every half-hour through residential areas or along a new road that could be constructed over numerous creeks, through farm and crown land to the loading station by the CN tracks next to the Bulkley River. The coal would be loaded onto 150+ railcars and sprayed with “non-toxic” latex to keep the dust down. 

There would be hardly any dust or noise (maybe a few daily explosions). And the big plus for Allegiance, since it would just be a “small” open pit mine with 240,000 tonnes/year, the whole process of applying for permits would only go through Ministry of Mines, which is a faster procedure. No Environmental Assessment would be required.

Any cause for concern? Not according to the Allegiance Coal delegates.

Anika Gattiker 

Telkwa 

           

More Letters and News Releases

Leave coal in ground

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Writer has a message for Allegiance Coal. 

Jul. 6, 2018

Editor,

To Allegiance Coal Ltd.:

Please leave the coal in the ground. Remember, clean waterways are the lifeline to our future. Please do not be so arrogant to assume you can ruin ours here in the Bulkley Valley.

Alan Kumlea

Rural Telkwa

Concerning coal mine water use

Record low water levels in the Bulkley River in 2018.


Writer is headed to Telkwa Coal open house Nov. 28 to ask about water use, Nov. 28, 2018


Editor,

This is an excerpt from the Tenas Coal Project Description that was sent to the Environmental Assessment Office for preliminary review:

Water Supply and Management: 

Water for site services, including process water make-up and wash-down and utility requirements, will come from groundwater wells or ponds located adjacent to the plant and pit areas. Preliminary hydrogeological and hydrology studies indicate that water sources within the Project area are adequate to meet the Project’s needs. More detailed information on average and maximum daily water demand for the Project will be developed during the detailed design stage; but is estimated at 15,000 litres per hour. Potable water will be sourced from groundwater and surface run off where possible. If sufficient supplies are not present, it will be sourced from Goathorn Creek. If required, this will be supplemented from potable water providers in the RDBN. 

We are at record low water levels in our rivers. Climate change is a huge problem. Is no one concerned about a proposed coal mine using 15,000 litres/HOUR for the next 25 years or so? This is just one of the many questions I intend to ask at the Open House on Nov. 28th.

Anika Gattiker, Telkwa