Provincial government officials are collecting additional information from Lafarge Canada Inc. about its plans to increase coal storage capabilities on Texada Island.
Lafarge applied to the ministry of energy and mines for an amendment to its permit. That application has been referred to other government agencies, as well as Powell River Regional District.
Lafarge’s application is part of a plan by Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD) to build coal-handling facilities within its existing terminal operations that would allow the direct transfer of coal from trains originating in the United States to barges, which would transport the coal up the Strait of Georgia to Lafarge’s Texada quarry for transshipment to Asia.
Lafarge plans to expand the area that is used to stockpile and transship coal at its Texada quarry. According to the company, the volume of coal that will need to be stockpiled will increase to 800,000 tonnes.
Lafarge first began storing coal for transshipment in 1990. At the time, the company received approval from the ministry of energy and mines.
However, Andrew Gage, a staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, has questioned whether the company should have a permit under the Environmental Management Act. “It is our view that an Environmental Management Act permit is required in regard to the storage of coal,” Gage wrote in a letter to the ministry of energy and mines and the ministry of environment in August.
The Environmental Management Act regulates a number of different industries that can cause water and air pollution and one of them is the storage and handling of coal, said Gage.
Ed Taje, regional manager with the ministry of energy and mines, said at the time Lafarge started storing coal for transshipment, the company was in compliance with the requirements of the Mines Act, as well as with Fisheries and Ocean Canada and ministry of environment regulations.
Taje said Lafarge is currently working with the environmental protection division in the ministry of environment to ensure it meets all current regulations that are applicable to its application.
Shelley Metcalfe, section head of the environmental protection division, said the ministry is in preliminary discussions with Lafarge to determine which, if any, permits the company might need to meet environmental regulations. “That’s really the stage we’re at right now,” she said. “We’re at that discussion stage and we’re asking them for some additional information to make that decision.”
Lincoln Kyne, Lafarge’s project manager, said the company has provided the ministry of environment with additional information regarding the amendment activities to facilitate its consideration process. “The ministry of environment will provide its input directly to the ministry of energy and mines in accordance with the referral process,” he said. “Lafarge currently is not in a position to comment on, and nor does it have visibility of, the input or position of each legislated authority.”
Meanwhile, the regional board is expected to pass a motion about Lafarge’s application at the September 26 board meeting.