Teck Coal has been given the go-ahead for an expansion of the Line Creek mine, located 20 kilometres northeast of Sparwood.
The provincial government granted a conditional Environmental Assessment Certificate to Teck for the Phase II project.
Chris Stannell, senior communication specialist for Teck, said Phase II will extend the Line Creek Operations for up to 18 years, as the current coal reserves will be exhausted and operation ceased in 2014. The project will maintain the current production of 3.5 million tonnes of metallurgic coal a year.
“It’s the next phase of mining at the Line Creek operation that’s required to maintain the existing production and employment levels at the mine,” he said, adding it would aid in sustaining approximately 500 jobs in the region.
Environment Minister Mary Polak and Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett issued the conditional certificate for the Elk Valley mine.
“We were satisfied that granting a certificate is the best way to protect water quality and also to keep the mines operating and people working,” Bennett said, noting the recent concerns surrounding selenium in the Elk River due to mining activity. “Selenium will not be cleaned up unless the company is operating successfully.”
He noted that in terms of water quality, selenium is an emerging parameter of concern, and it will take some time for Teck to stabilize and reverse the trends of selenium in the watershed.
Bennett said that by implementing the conditions of the certificate, combined with the Ministry of Environment order to develop an Elk Valley water quality plan, Teck will improve the conditions in the watershed over time.
The 26 conditions that Teck Coal has to meet to be in compliance with the certificate are legally-binding.
They include: developing management plans to mitigate local and cumulative effects on water quality and wildlife; developing a compensation plan to offset fish habitat loss and a regional fish habitat management plan; completing a population assessment of westslope cutthroat trout in the Upper Fording drainage basin; verifying the findings of the human-health-risk assessment; working collaboratively with the Ktunaxa Nation to develop a number of plans, including a Cultural Management Plan, a Work Force and Business Opportunities Plan and an Economic Participation in Mine Closure Plan.
British Columbia’s environmental assessment process involves First Nations, government agencies and the public and looks at the potential for environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects from a proposed project.