Beyond Thunderdome

It looks like British Columbia may have given Montana Senator Max Baucus an excuse to once again visit our beautiful province. As Public Eye's astute readers may remember, Senator Baucus went on a border-crossing field trip last year to complain about the proposed opening of a coal mine near one of the Flathead River's tributaries. At issue: concerns Cline Mining Corp.'s operation in southeastern British Columbia could pollute the waters in and around America's nearby Glacier National Park. Those concerns were eased somewhat back in December, when the company agreed to submit its Foisey Creek plans to an environmental assessment, rather than opening a smaller mine that would have slipped through the review process and then expanded at a later date. But now, according to National Parks Conservation Association Glacier program manager Steve Thompson, Australia's Wasabi Energy Ltd. and Western Canadian Coal Corp. are moving ahead with plans to develop a mine that's further downstream.

Back in November, Wasabi and Western announced the companies would be studying the economics of the Lillyburt coal property. At the time, Wasabi director Tim Wise said, "Further stages of exploration can be expeditiously commenced if the scoping study outcome is favourable." And it looks that may have happened. In an interview on Public Eye Radio, Mr. Thompson - a member of the Flathead Coalition - said his understanding is that the companies have applied to the provincial government's ministry of energy, mines and petroleum resources for an exploratory work permit allowing them to drill 13 test holes, dig 30 metres of trench and complete some roadwork on the property. The approval of such permits is usually fairly routine.

"They're about one year behind where Cline was with their Foisey Creek project in the same watershed not that far away," said Mr. Thompson - which is around the same time Foisey Creek began attracting international attention. "The reality is there is coal there. It has value in Asia where it all gets sent. And without any sort of clear decision-making structure to decide do we want to go down the path of industrializing the (Flathead) Valley, the default position is these international corporations from all over the globe are going to come in and take advantage of what they can take advantage of."

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