Port Metro Vancouver has issued a permit to Neptune Terminals for a $200 million expansion project at its coal export terminal in North Vancouver, B.C.
However, the move has environmental groups claiming that the province is contributing to global warming.
“We recognize and respect that port communities require meaningful and ongoing input into the operation and expansion of port facilities, along with transparency in consultation processes and adherence to high environmental standards,” said Port Metro Vancouver president and CEO Robin Silvester.
“We are committed to ensuring that our review of all proposed projects meets these high standards. Nonetheless, there are matters that are beyond our jurisdiction, the scope of our project review process and our mandate.”
The expansion of the coal handling facility and the installation of a new stacker reclaimer was approved by Port Metro Vancouver on Jan. 23.
Members of a Victoria-based environmental group, the Dogwood Initiative, called on the port authority to delay this decision. It wants Port Metro Vancouver to create a transparent review process and explicitly consider global warming impacts in their review.
A poll commissioned by the Dogwood Initiative in December 2012 showed that most people in British Columbia were unaware of plans to increase the shipments of U.S. coal through B.C. ports.
The poll found almost half – 47 per cent – say they are opposed to U.S. coal being shipped to Asia by way of B.C. ports.
“It’s very concerning that British Columbia has become a major cog in the global coal industry with very little discussion on the matter,” said Will Horter, executive director of Dogwood Initiative. “This expansion of ports would result in increased coal train traffic, with an accompanying increase in the dispersal of toxic coal dust, a major health risk to the region’s communities.”
Justason Market Intelligence surveyed 539 B.C. residents by telephone and online between Sept. 24 and Oct. 1.
The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points, 95 per cent of the time.
Neptunes’ coal handing project includes a second railcar dumper, a conveyor to transport the steelmaking coal from the new dumper to the storage area, replacement of a quadrant shiploader and foundation reinforcement at Berth One. The new, longer boom will allow ships to be loaded without movement during loading. The dumper will be enclosed in a shed and will use automated electric railcar positioning equipment.
It will be about 12 metres high and will be located on the inbound rail track at the northeast corner of the terminal.
The replacement of the old reclaimer unit involves the installation of new equipment and will allow the terminal to improve efficiency and operating flexibility by simultaneously moving steelmaking coal from trains to the stockpiles and directly from stockpiles onto vessels.
The new stacker reclaimer will further enhance Neptune’s environmental measures with a best-in-class dust suppression system.
This project will take Neptune’s coal handling capabilities from 12 million tonnes to 18.5 million tonnes a year.
Port Metro Vancouver is currently reviewing a second project by Fraser Surrey Docks for the construction of a direct transfer coal facility at the southwest end of the existing terminal to handle up to four to eight million metric tonnes of coal per year.
The coal will be transferred by Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail to the terminal and will be loaded directly onto 8,000 dead weight tonnes barges at existing Berth 2.
The coal will be towed to Texada Island and stored before transfer to a deep sea vessel for overseas export.
The second proposal would bring the port’s total coal export capacity — including Deltaport — to 49 million to 53 million tonnes a year. This would make Port Metro Vancouver North America’s largest coal export hub. Neptune handles potash, steelmaking coal, bulk vegetable oils, fertilizers and agricultural products in the City of North Vancouver.