West Moberly First Nation Added As Third Party In Upcoming Appeal

In Colonial Coal Corp. v. B.C. (Regional Manager), the British Columbia Environmental Appeal Board allowed West Moberly First Nation to be added, in part, as a third party to an appeal by Colonial Coal Corporation.

 3.       Colonial Coal’s appeal relates to its mineral exploration activities in and around the Huguenot area south-east of Tumbler Ridge, BC. In particular, its plans to build approximately 9.2 kilometres of new trails and to reopen and modify 0.3 kilometres of pre-existing trails to support its drilling program. Although unclear from its Notice of Appeal, at least some of the trails are located above the elevation of 1400 metres.

4          Colonial Coal obtained mining permits and other mining-related authorizations to construct trails in the area of its coal exploration both above and below the 1400 metre elevation. However, its permit for the work also stated that Colonial Coal was “responsible for obtaining all required approvals or permits under that [other] legislation including any authorizations to operate vehicles above 1400 metres.”

5          In June of 2010, Colonial Coal applied to the then Ministry of Natural Resource Operations (now the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) for a permit that would allow Colonial Coal to use motor vehicles to build access trails for mining exploration in an area closed to the use of motor vehicles under the Motor Vehicle Prohibition Regulation. Specifically, it applied for approval to use a motor vehicle in an area closed to the use of motor vehicles in or around the location of the Huguenot mineral exploration area above 1400 metres.

6          In a decision dated February 11, 2011, Maurice Lirette, Regional Manager, Recreational Fisheries & Wildlife Programs, Peace Region (the “Regional Manager”), refused to issue the requested permit on the grounds that the motor vehicles would be going through sensitive caribou habitat. He states in part:

As you can appreciate, the proposal to use motor vehicles to build access trails for mining exploration in sensitive caribou habitat required me to gather additional information so that I could make an informed decision on the application. I had also hoped to meet with West Moberly First Nations to gather further information. I have come to the conclusion however, that I have sufficient information before me to consider the application.

… After reviewing the information before me I have concluded that issuing the permit would result in additional and unacceptable risk to woodland caribou. Specifically, allowing the use of a motor vehicle to create a linier corridor within the motor vehicle closed area would provide additional opportunity for predators to access an area identified as an important calving area for caribou. Calf survival rates for the Narraway caribou herd are extremely low (approximately 6 calves per 100 cows) and in my opinion adding any additional mortality risk from predators like wolves is contrary to proper wildlife management.