Port Metro Vancouver has granted a permit for the Fraser Surrey dock to be expanded to export four million tonnes of coal per year, saying it will not harm the environment or local residents.
Vice president Peter Xotta says the decision followed a two-year review, which included a full environmental impact assessment, public hearings and public health assessments.
“Through our comprehensive project review process, stakeholder consultation, as well as third-party validated environmental and health studies, it was determined there are no unacceptable risks and the project could be permitted," Xotta said in a statement released on Thursday morning.
The project has run into fierce opposition from local municipal governments, environmentalists, residents and other groups, who have raised concerns about the terminal's potential harm on the local air quality and global greenhouse gas emissions.
But port officials say the project has been revised to include new measures to reduce coal dust escaping from trains and barges, and a ban on the storage of coal at the facility.
U.S. coal to be barged to Texada Island port
Fraser Surrey Docks first asked Port Metro Vancouver for permission to add a coal shipping facility to its existing terminal, located along the Fraser River southeast of Vancouver.
The proposed facility will transfer coal arriving from the U.S. on rail cars to barges, which would then carry the coal to nearby Texada Island to eventually be shipped to Asia.
The $15-million project is expected to create 25 direct and 25 indirect jobs.
The port notes coal is already the most heavily traded commodity at the port, and the amount shipped from the new facility would represent only a 10 per cent increase.
Port Metro Vancouver is a non-shareholder corporation established by the federal government in 2008 to manage all ports in the Metro Vancouver region. It is run by a federally-appointed board of directors representing government and industry.