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What Matters in Our Valley (Nancy Cody and Jay Gilden)

[Transcript below]

Today on CICK News:


What matters in our valley are a group of Telkwa and other Bulkley Valley reside​nts who share a deep commitment to the conservation of our rivers, water, fish, wildlife, air and the quality of life in our exceptional area. Their goals are to inform the public about the implications to our valley of the proposed Telkwa coal mine; and protect the interests of the environment, the economy and the social fabric of the community of Telkwa and the Bulkley Valley.


In January of this year, WMIOV received Over 400 signatures on a petition calling on the BC environmental assessment office to hold a public meeting to ensure residents are fully informed about the risks that the proposed Telkwa Coal Mine poses.


The petition was handed to Member of the Legislative Assembly for Stikine, Nathan Cullen, as well as sent to Matthew Rogers, Environmental Assessment Office Project Lead, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, and the Minister of the Environment.

MLA Nathan Cullen will be presenting the petition in the BC legislature.


What Matters In Our Valley is concerned that there have not been meaningful opportunities to explore the risks that the mine poses, and that residents deserve a full airing of issues before the province makes a decision on whether to approve the mine. Specifically, the group believes that it is important that a public forum be held prior to a draft assessment report being released and final public comment period.

Both the Town of Smithers and the Village of Telkwa have submitted letters supporting the need for more public engagement and information provided in a fair and unbiased way.

I met with nancy cody and jay gilden of what matters in our valley last month in the CICK train car so that we could discuss the environmental, socio-economic, and lasting impacts of the proposed mine.

 My name is Nancy Cody, and I'm co-chair of What Matters in Our Valley. 

Can you tell me why it started and who started, what matters in our Valley? 

Sure. Yes. It, , started be in November, 2017, , when,  it was identified that there actually was a proposed mine by allegiance. To develop, a mine in in Telkwa.

And it seemed serious enough that we decided to get together and start looking at it and moving forward from there. Okay. 

And what was your background before getting involved? 

About 20 years ago or so? Mm-hmm. , my husband and I were involved in starting a group called  Teach. Telkwa  Educational Action Coalition of Householders.

Mm-hmm. , because a Minolta Cole had proposed, a mine there. And so we,  started out very open-minded, uh, about it. And over time, um, we identified that there were many concerns. And so,  we started a group, , to sort of just get the information out to the public and to raise,  some concerns.  The development of the coal mine up there.

So yeah, definitely had the history.  They stopped going forward because of, a fall on the market in the coal. , but then, so to hear that it was starting up again, I know I was approached to be involved and I said, absolutely not . You know, like it, you know, it just about destroyed us, you know, because it can become very divisive and,  but,  I'm really happy I, that we've gotten involved and it's been a great group and we're just so diverse and, so much energy and.

knowledge and, , it's,  it's just been great. And so we,  our first focus, of course is on,  looking at the proposed coal mine intel.  But we do care about, um, ensuring that,  telco and the bulky Valley are,  are environmentally, economically and socially healthy. Mm-hmm. . So it's broader than that.

But definitely our focus is right now is on the coal mine and I think we'll be too. Well, I have to have a rest where, yeah. , we'll fo focus on that for now. For now. Yeah. Yeah. Anything else is gravy. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Right now.  So how is tennis marketing this proposed mine project,  and what are some of the biggest gaps in transparency that you're seeing?

Well, they are stating to the public and to the environmental assessment office that this is a metallurgy coal mine. Mm-hmm. , which. Coal used for making steel. Mm-hmm. , which they think will make it more palatable, especially in view of climate change and other concerns about use of coal for energy.  But the reality is that the coal here is very low quality coal for metall iCal purposes.

It can be used for either and in any. People may not know this, but coal used to make steel goes up in the air as co2. Yeah, just like any other coal used to produce energy or any other time that coal has burned. So from the point of view of the climate change issue, it doesn't matter how it's being used.

And secondly, the steel industry itself is now transitioning away from use of. To using hydrogen or other methods of extracting oxygen, which is what you do when you put coal in with iron. Mm-hmm. , you extract the oxygen to purify the product. Mm-hmm.  and that makes steel, but there's other things, hydrogen and other things that can extract the oxygen.

Yeah, I think in addition to that, of course, it's just, making sure people are fully aware of what the issues are and what the concerns are and having,  sort of an open discussion about that. So, while they've had open houses,  the environmental assessment offices sort of supported the open houses as part of the process, but, um, the people present were cola and.

People they've hired. Yeah. And I think it was really challenging to really tease out some of the issues and sort of, that's been, a, a major concern of ours. . And that's why we started the petition and,   and, and do have in the future interest in having more conversations and trying to not tell people what to do.

We wanna be kind of clear that we're, \ v we want people to make decisions by themselves. Yep. We're not gonna ram it down your throat. Um, we just want to air what are the concerns and have an open forum so people can,  hear what the scientists have to say about it. Yeah.    A lot of the situations are very complex and it's hard for the average person to really wrap their mind around it.

I've been intensely involved since 2017 November. Yeah. And, and it's, it's still really complex. And do you mean the complexity of, the potential of   economic boom versus having a coal mine  in a near vicinity to you? Environmentalists and people who might not even consider themselves to be environmentalists who don't  realize the changes and the damage that it would do to estuaries rivers and the air quality as well.

But yet, I mean, the lure of jobs is probably so tempting for people, especially cuz in a lot of what tennis is putting out is the. Potential for jobs and that they would try to keep as much of it as, uh, local, locally hired as possible. Is that what you mean by the complexity of it? Well, I think you just really explained  it really well there.

you know, I'll tell you , that's why when I was reading their overview mm-hmm. , like their project overview. , um, you know, they mentioned donations that they've made to these really, and like, I mean, it's  places that I'm sure would be very happy to have a check cut to them.

No strings attached. But I followed up with a cup of those places to just find out were there any sort of stipulations with taking this? They said no, that there wasn't. But you still, you still feel favorably about the place that gave you money, especially if you do a lot to fundraise or you, you're a volunteer board or something like that.

I feel like that's maybe part of the danger of marketing something like this. So job forward and wonder. Kind of   concerns about how we are seen in the community.

We don't wanna be divisive. Yeah. And, so when, for example,  the . Invited people to participate in a family skate on Monday, on the family day, which is a nice gesture.  It, when you look a little deeper into it, you understand too that,  it's a free rank and the people that maintain it are doing it as volunteers.

Yeah.  It's hard. It's really hard because you don't wanna offend anyone and you don't wanna interfere. And yet what you're talking about,  does have influence. Yeah. Like people, trying to be promoted as a good community citizen and makes you have kind feelings about them. Yeah. But looking a little bit deeper, it's deceptive often.

It's hard for people to see past a need to put food on their table and we really, and to have a place,  a roof over their heads and we,  are very,  Committed to having compassion for that as well.

So what can we do to create jobs that will sort of have a, a high value for water and air and what this area has to offer in terms of values, 

but what with what matters in our valley? I mean, you're not, is part of the organization to offer suggestions. Worker lines of work that people can go into to not be lured into this?

Or is it, is it for the environmental concerns mostly? 

Well, mostly we want people to be aware of how to weigh the proposed benefits. Against the costs. Yep. And you asked about the complexity. Well, we have a mine plan that's many thousands of pages long, full of. Details. Right. And how as a layperson do you read through that and understand what the risks are?

Because Telco Cola's summary makes it look like the risks are very low.  But when you, um, page through it and when you look at it from the point of view of experts, the risks are quite high.  There's risks of selenium and other heavy metal pollution of acid rock drainage. Mm-hmm. . Mine dam collapse that puts 200 lives at risk.

And so all this has to be weighed when the community is making a decision.  About whether this is a good project or a bad project.  We actually went out and hired our own experts.

So on our website you can see the reports from our own experts about water, about.  about the risks of mind dam collapse. Mm-hmm.  and, um, other,  potential damage to the community. And they are substantial. And in fact, our questions have now been to a great extent, corroborated by the Environmental Assessment Office.

Mm-hmm. , because they concluded. Telco call was not providing sufficient information to assess what the total level of risk is, and they have now asked them for considerably more information. Mm-hmm.  in order to  make that determination. 

So you recently submitted a petition to, Emily Nathan Cullen, as well as Matthew Rogers e ESA office Project Lead, uh, for the Ministry of Energy Mines and Low Carbon Innovation and the Minister of Environment.

Nathan Cullen will be presenting the petition to the BC legislature proclaiming the residents deserve a full airing of issues before the province makes a decision. This is from your website. Specifically. The group believes your group that it is important that a public forum be held prior to a draft assessment, uh, being released and final public comment period.

What, in your opinion, is the best practice for. Disclosure and open forum forum to house these discussions that you feel like maybe tennis is trying to work around. What, what, in your opinion, is the best forum for that discourse? 

Well, we're still in the process of trying to see what is possible. 

And doable. Mm-hmm. , um, the Environmental Assessment Office has been very clear that it's not something they can support. So in terms of their response, so they,  it's just, I think they feel that,  well, I couldn't say what exactly what they feel, but we do have the letters,  that we could review  for you.

But the idea is that, , we're gonna probably have to move forward with it on our own and we're not quite sure what we're gonna do. Mm-hmm. . So our ideal would be to have a,  A forum at a place like Della Herman, where you have a variety of scientists available either through video or in person.

And that we could have, scientists from both sides, like if you wanna say sides, like from the company and from. ,  the people that we've hired and then people could address questions and then they could pe everybody could hear the answers together. Mm-hmm. . So, and it did happen with Minolta actually, something very similar to that happened.

Yep. And I think it was helpful, and it was done very well. So you, we wanted it to be facilitated, not by us. , but by a third party.  That would be very,  ethical and, and be very respectful. Yeah. And, uh, respect all views and opinions.  Yeah. So that, that would be our, our ideal.

 And the idea we're we, we might be pursuing that. We are, we're trying to look at that as a third party to facilitate a process. , and we're also trying to sort of get some of the key. , and some of the scientists through,  perhaps video clips as well.  So those are some things we're looking at right now.

 One of the problems from our point of view is that this hasn't happened up till now, even though the environmental assessment process as supposed to encourage input from the community  from, um, all of us, basically. Yeah. There's been no place, no.  where balanced views could be presented.

They held a couple of open houses, but really that was just the environmental Assessment Office providing an opportunity for Telco Coco, right to present this position. There was no opportunity, no, request, no invitation for any other views to be expressed, so we didn't think that that.  adequate from the point of view of the community understanding the project.

 Or even from the, the point of view of the environmental assessment office's objective of making sure people are fully informed. Informed, yeah. And the petition, which had about over 400 signatures on it. That's right. Are these, are these mostly local signatures

I'm looking at, uh, the petition in front of me and where people are from I would say the.

The majority are from,  Smithers Telco, but they're, I'm seeing here, Kiks,  Cal, uh, and some outside La Peachland and some outside areas as well. But you can see the majority are from,  local area. So we.  Did actually  go house to house . That's good. Yeah. I'm looking at Jay because he did a lot of the work, and we,  did distribute,   our pamphlet Yep.

Which sort of asked people to,  have their voice be heard and some of the key issues. So, we, that.  is through social media, Facebook, Instagram, and through our website and through a door to door with our pamphlet. And we did a film event as well. Okay. Yeah. Where we distributed information. So those were some of the ways in which we got, the public to.

uh, joined with us in asking, and also we went to,  the town of Smithers and the Village at Qua, and they wrote letters as well. Yes. And which was very, very kind of them just saying, yes, we'd like to have a more open discussion of,  what the risks and benefits are. Yeah. And, and so that was really satisfying.

And, I'm just profoundly,  thankful and gra grateful to the village. .  And the town as well. A town of Smithers,  for doing that. It, it was very, and it also speaks to our desire to not be divisive.  Because, we certainly do understand the need for jobs and, people's family needs, and we don't want to put people off.

So, yeah, I, I think it was a united front, but, So far, although we have a good relationship with the environmental assessment office, we don't really have, the kind of clout that other decision makers, like they have a process for engaging with Suein. Mm-hmm. , et cetera. And also for engaging experts.

Yeah. We're not a part of that. Okay. So it does. We aren't as restricted in what we can do. We're really grassroots. We are grassroots. We're all volunteers. Yeah. And we, have a desire, uh, for a valley, an area that's, beautiful and healthy and thriving and,  you know, that we have something so precious.

Here we want all future generations to enjoy it. And, and so,  We would like people to engage without feeling restricted. 

 I, I did wanna mention this recent article as well by Amanda Follet. Mm-hmm.  and the Tae on,  on Caribou or Cole.  So there, I think there are some really interesting and, and relevant articles that are happening as well.  Cuz we haven't mentioned Carib. So I, I took AR in there. Yeah, no, absolutely.

 But yeah. Um, I mean, I have more questions  on what risks to the environment and diversity of the land in Telco River are glaring to.  and how are you raising those concerns? And who are you working with? Well, let's start with the water and the fish.  So, uh, the information that we provided to our experts,  is all from Teleco's own material filed with its mine application.

We didn't make this stuff up. Our experts didn't go out and do an independent research on this. And that information indicates that there is substantial, uh, likelihood of the water being polluted by acid rock drainage because of leaks from the containment it indicate. , there will be a substantial contamination by heavy metals.

Taca Cola itself is asked for variances of up to 25 times provincial standards for selenium and other heavy metals. This stuff is toxic to fish the creeks and the telco river and the immediate vicinity of the mine are significant fish bearing rivers. The creeks themselves. , at least historically important contributors to not only salmon, but steelhead populations for the entire Skeena system.

So this poses a real risk to the fish in our water corn.  The dams now, there have been numerous. Failures for this kind of containment operation in the past around the world, including many hundreds of lives lost.  We don't want to be sensationalist, but according to Telco, Cole's own, presentation and information, in its mine application, there are up to 200 lives at risk if the dams fail.

Which they could, they. Designed the dams to the Canadian Dam Association standard for that kind of risk. So I'm not sure what they were thinking. It's designed below the Canadian Dam Association Standards Plus, and the EEO is not even requiring this. There have not been studies done by them about whether the dams can even be built safely.

Nobody has drilled down to find. , whether or not you put up a dam there, it's gonna stand up.   And that area is full of faults and fractures. So those are some of the risks. Um, there's also air, you know, where is the dust going?  Does it go up to the ski hill? The ski hill is just way, maybe seven kilometers away, facing directly uphill and downwind from the mine.

Do we ski on black? It's not explained in their mind, application sound. Well, the only thing they looked at in terms of sound was how far would the impact of the noise go if,  to the extent that would actually wake you up at night. Oh, now, you know, there's a lot of noise around here. That doesn't wake you up at night, but it's still pretty annoying.

Yeah. And they provided a.  PowerPoint that includes the blasting noise from, uh, other similar coal operations. It makes the camera shake when they're shooting the, the footage. 

So those are the kinds of things that we need to know. 

 I just will add too, that they, they wash the coal, of course. Um, water is such a valuable, resource. Yeah. We can't live without it. And,  because of, climate changes where we have intense water, but then we have no water. And, just in terms of where the outflow will go into the, into the rivers as well, into the, I mean, I think water is a huge issue and that's why our signs say, you know, coal and water.

 Because,  it's so unpredictable that they'll have enough water. Mm-hmm.  and,  the load out is right by the river as well in sort of a flood plane. There are a lot of issues.  It's that are of concern. Not to mention where the road that they would propose to build mm-hmm. Is going mm-hmm.

you know, uh, the sort of a wetlands through there, et cetera. So,   those are a few other issues that we haven't really highlighted, but I think the water is particularly important. Yeah. And what do we value?  Do we understand what we have here and uh, and how easily it could change?

Ironically, the load out, which Nancy mentioned, is in a flood plane. They said, well, there hasn't been any flood there that's disrupted the railroad for whatever, 60, 70 years. So really there's low risk. Well this year, just after they filed the mine application, that very location was a subject to a flood warning because of the, uh, ice jam on the bulky river.

So it is a risk there. And if the river rises up and goes to the railroad load out they've store, they would be storing coal there. It would wash into the river and the coal. Generates an acid rock reaction because of its sulfur content. Yeah. If it gets in the river, then you're going to have a acidic reaction along the river, which will beat poisonous 

to fish. So I think again, it, it come back, comes back to what do you value about living here? What, what are the things you like the most? Mm-hmm. . So if you like to be in the mountains and looking around, what, what's your visual, uh, what, what, what are your aesthetics when it comes to looking around? I mean, you.

You're gonna be able to see this mine from a variety of places. So we've posted pictures about that too. And what about the quiet? I mean, yes, we have some noise, but do you value it? Do, why do people come here? Is it an area that people come because, , they wanna live here? Yeah. For example, or, uh, they want to recreate here.

And so that the impact it would have on that. And then the critical piece is air, water, soil, I mean, all those things that we need to live. . Um, do you value that? I, I think it's hard. I do. I think when you're in a place, especially if, if you've been raised around here, to really appreciate, what we have and, and how easily it could change, and then the unpredictability of, of weather,  it makes it,  a lot more important now.

And not to mention, I mean, in terms of, the market. . So Allegiance right now is kind of scraping the bottom with their stock and there's constant discussion about, well, should we go thermal? Should we go metallurgical? You know, they're kind of trying to market right? Their product, it tow shoes out of it.

Allegiance bought in the rest. So I think it was 10% or 5%. Anyway,  you know what, quit Banta Coal when they were here long ago, they were a legitimate coal mine. Mm-hmm. , they, they actually, not a coal mine, but they actually did coal mines. They really knew their stuff a lot. And, um, it looked like it was gonna go forward and they had a few more things to address, such as, uh, selenium, et cetera.

But, uh, the market fell. Yeah. Suddenly, , that's it. Done. And all the energy and all the work to getting it going. And so let's say you get the mine up and go running or, or even partially running and then the market falls and we're trying to get outta coal. It's no matter whether it's metall, allergic or coal or.

it's thermal. This is  dirty high sulphur coal. Yeah. It's like one of the first things we have to be looking at and we're, if we're looking at longevity on the planet. . So it is ironic that we find ourselves, I mean, it's an opportunity. It's actually quite amazing that we find ourselves with a topic of coal.

in a diamond, a, a gem. Like there's only one with sue and territory in the whole world. Yeah. So it does,  invite everyone to get involved. What do you value? , uh, what do you like about living here? Mm-hmm.  and how can we maintain it and keep people employed? Yeah. Let's be creative. Let's get together, let's talk about it.

Those are some of our thoughts anyway.

Was there something that I didn't ask about that's, um, that's important for people to know?

Let's say, um, this might be someone. Introduction to what you're doing and maybe even more information about the proposed coal mine than they had. Is there something else, a, a statement that you want people to leave with or, or something that I didn't ask about that you think is important for our listeners to know?

I, I just think it's important for people to know we're not against something, right? We were inspired to participate because we care. People being really being given good information so that they can make their own decisions about how we should move forward. This is, a political process and it'll be a political decision.

Mm-hmm. . So we need everyone to engage and care as much as you can and to not ideally see us as a.  that's trying to push something on people. Look at what you value about life. Think about future generations. Mm-hmm.  in terms of, uh, the cost of water, if you have to buy it. Is there gonna be clean water for that long?

Mm-hmm. , you know, what's more important than clean water? And even in terms of health,  the role the environment plays in mental. In,  getting outside and having some quiet. What do you value for your children? And while it's nice to have jobs, it, it's, it's critical to have jobs. It's critical people have money and understanding that some of these occupations can be temporary.

Yeah. And, what is 20 years in, in a hundred? , it's not very long if you have to pay for the consequences forever. 

The consequences of putting a coal mine in at this location just above the Telkwa River, close to the confluence of the Telkwa in seven kilometers from tele, go on forever. Mm-hmm.  in perpetuity you have to guard against the leaks and the toxic runoff forever. Telco Cole's plan only caused for monitoring for 25 years.

Yeah, so we have to think of the consequences as something that goes on forever against the the benefits that would only last at best, 25.  and that are really part of a sunset industry that does not really have a future. Given what's going on with the economy and the environment in general around the world.

So weigh those two things in the balance, but you know, these consequences will go on forever.  And, um, if you have to,   taking care of something forever. Yeah. And the company is not in existence anymore. Yeah. So take that into account to the costs for municipalities, um, long term.

Yeah. I think it's, thanks. Thanks, Jay .  Thank you very much. Great. Thank you so much for doing this today. Yes. Thank you for inviting us. Yeah, thanks. Bye. 



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