Teck has been directed by Environment and Climate Change Canada to take additional measures to improve water quality and prevent calcite deposition in waters affected by the Fording River and Greenhills operations.
In a release last week, the company said the measures it was being directed to undertake were “complimentary to measures already included in the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (EVWQP)” which is Teck’s own guiding document and plan on managing selenium and nitrate in the environment as a result of past, current and future coal mining operations.
“The direction does not require construction of any additional water treatment facilities beyond those already contemplated by the EVWQP,” said the company in the release, “but sets out requirements with respect to water management such as diversions, mine planning, fish monitoring and calcite prevention measures, as well as the installation by December 31, 2030, of a 200-hectare geo-synthetic cover trial in the Greenhills creek drainage.”
A geo-synthetic cover is a cap over waste rock made of materials that do not decompose, such as plastics and polymers. The cover is then buried under other materials such as soil or rock to keep it in place, locking the waste rock underground and (potentially) preventing water runoff.
The directions were not publicly released.
Teck reported that the directions laid out by Environment and Climate Change Canada would require “incremental” increases in investment to the tune of $350-$400 million over ten years in addition to the investment already flowing into the company’s selenium management plan, with spending in 2021 estimated to be $17 million.
Local environmental group Wildsight was quick on the draw, taking aim at both Teck and Environment and Climate Change Canada on the issue of the geo-synthetic cover, saying the timeline given by the government was too lenient.
“Teck has been talking about trying out a cover of this type for a decade and now they’re going to take another nine years to start a trial,” said Wildsight’s Mining Lead, Lars Sander-Green, who accused Environment and Climate Change Canada of being silent on what he said was rising pollution despite investigations in 2012-2014.
“Why isn’t Environment Canada taking action to protect fish from Teck’s coal mine pollution, especially Species at Risk Act listed westslope cutthroat trout?
“The upper Fording River westslope cutthroat trout population collapsed over the past few years, with 93 per cent of adult fish gone from 2017 to 2019. We’re left wondering why Environment Canada isn’t willing to step up and make sure our fish are protected from water pollution. Environment Canada has said nothing about this fish population collapse, even though the upper Fording River is the most heavily polluted river in the Elk Valley.”
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