Port Metro Vancouver has ordered the Fraser Surrey Docks to assess the effects of a coal project on the health of humans and the ecology before it gives approval to the proposed Lower Mainland export facility.

Fraser Surrey Docks along the Fraser River wants to build a direct-transfer facility that will handle two million metric tonnes of coal annually, increasing to four million metric tonnes within five years,

But Darrell Desjardin, director of environment and sustainability for Port Metro Vancouver, says the port has initiated an environmental review process.

The port — which would issue permits to the facility — wants railway companies and the Surrey dock to address the issue of dust migration from rail cars carrying it to the port.

The port is also asking Fraser Surrey Docks to revise its proposal so a temporary coal stockpile at the proposed facility is not necessary.

James Crandles, the director of planning and development for Port Metro Vancouver, says he expects it will take several weeks to complete the work and the environmental impact assessment will be made public.

Crandles says people have made it clear they are concerned about the  coal dust, train noise, environmental impacts and climate change, and the port wants Fraser-Surrey to make sure coal dust stays inside coal cars.

"Domestic rail companies in Canada that currently ship through our gateway undertake a process of a double spray of the rail cars...so we think that this is a best practice that should be deployed."

Crandles says they also expect a guarantee the coal dust wont migrate from barges as its towed to Texada Island for export.