Neptune Discovery

Hrm. If you think I’m writing about the discovery of the planet Neptune … well, you’ll be a little disappointed. Besides, it was discovered a long time ago. Nope, I’m talking about something a little more local.

Ever felt like your city is boring? You’ve discovered everything and explored everywhere in it? Perhaps it isn’t, and you haven’t.  Maybe you’re just not looking in the right places. Last weekend Cameron and I found ourselves touring somewhere we’d never thought we’d go: Neptune Terminals.

We drive past it a couple of times a week on the way to kickboxing. You can’t miss it … those ominous looking heaps of coal on the north shore, with row upon row of train tracks running past. It’s been in the news lately, what with a push to limit expansion of coal export businesses in the lower mainland. On the one hand, yay, job creation. On the other, the environmental impact concern – coal dust seems to be tops here, though other concerns I have are the risk of accidental spills of coal and the water associated with the place, and let’s not forget increase of pollution where it’s going and the environmental effects of mining the stuff in the first place.

So when I saw a few balloons attached to ‘open house’ signs along the lower levels road, and realized it was for Neptune Terminals, I immediately proposed that we visit after kickboxing on Saturday. Cameron’s always been curious about the coal heaps, the spraying water, and the enormous rotary digging machines they have.

We weren’t disappointed – in fact, it was far better put together than I’d expected, and we got to see much more than I’d hoped. We both learned lots – for starters, they also export canola oil and potash. But to Cameron’s disappointment he didn’t get to work the rotary digging machine.  Still, he did get to work one of the water spray cannons that they use to keep coal dust down.  We took a bus tour in amongst the buildings, stopping to look at a coal-laden ship, and peek into giant warehouses filled with mountains of potash.

I left there still feeling ambiguous about the coal export industry. They did have a fairly convincing spiel about their safety and environmental controls, which made me feel a little better. At first I was relieved, their coal is destined for the steel industry, not burning to make electricity. But then I remembered how steel is made. The coal is still burned, releasing mercury and other toxins into the environment, and contributing to climate change. This isn’t Neptune’s fault, and we need to remember also that as of right now there aren’t other viable options. If we want steel, we burn stuff. Coal or trees,  a lot of trees, take your pick.  On the other side of thing, they did seem very concerned about local environmental impact, and were raising money for the North Shore Neighbourhood House and the Seymore Salmonid Society.

So, a chance moment glancing the right way and we found a cool way to spend an hour or so on a Saturday. Keep that in mind next time you’re stuck in an adventure rut, and it feels like there’s nothing new to do.

Many thanks to Neptune Terminals for their open house last weekend!

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