Have your say on the Murray River Coal Project

Trent Ernst, Editor

The Canadian Environmental agency has begun its review process of the Murray River Coal project to decide whether or not a review is necessary.

This is part of the 2012 changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), which allows some projects to undergo only one review as part of its Environmental Assessment.

Most projects have to undergo two reviews: one provincial and one federal, the latter looking in more detail at things like impact on waterways (a federal jurisdiction) and migrating birds (also under federal jurisdiction).

However, under the new CEAA, where the Federal Minister is of the opinion that the provincial EA process would be an appropriate substitute for or equivalent to the federal process, the minister may approve substitution of a provincial process for an assessment.

This current review is not the assessment itself, but rather, to determine if the Murray River Coal mine is a large enough project to trigger a federal review.

To assist it in making its decision, the Agency is seeking comments from the public on the project and its potential effects on the environment.

The Murray River property is located 12.5 km south of Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia. According to HD’s submission on the CEAA website, the property consists of 57 coal licences covering an area of 16,024 hectares and is situated on Crown Land. The proposed underground metallurgical coal mine would have a production rate of 6 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), with a deposit that will support a 31-year mine life. The Project is expected to provide approximately 18,600 person-years of employment and has an estimated capital cost of $300 million Canadian dollars.

As part of exploration of the property, HD Mining has received approvals from the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas (MENG) to mine a 100,000 tonne bulk sample to test the coal for use as a coking coal and to perform coal washability testing. HD Mining is preparing the site to mine the bulk sample, which they estimate will happen in the fall of 2013. That time frame is later than originally expected, as the process has been delayed by a legal case around Temporary Foreign Workers. A decision in that case is expected by May.

Federally, the Project is listed as a “designated project”, as the production rate will exceed the threshold for a coal mine of 3,000 tonnes per day. The mine is expected to produce up to 16,438 tonnes per day.

If it is decided that a federal environmental assessment is required, the public will have three more opportunities to comment on this project, consistent with the transparency and public engagement elements of CEAA 2012.

Written comments must be submitted by May 6, 2013 to MurrayRiver@ceaa-acee.gc.ca. To view a summary of the project description or for more information on the project and on the environmental assessment process, visit the Agency’s website at www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca