Representatives from Teck updated local officials on the pace of a proposed expansion to a metallurgical coal mine in the Elk Valley during a monthly regional district meeting on Friday.
The proposed Castle Mountain expansion, directly south of the existing Fording River operations near Elkford, is currently in the pre-feasibility and design stage, according to Norman Fraser, Senior Lead, Indigenous and Community Affairs for the Castle Mountain project.
“The project is in the early stages of both the B.C. environmental assessment process and the federal impact assessment,” said Fraser. “Our next deliverable that we’re working on right now is a detailed project description. The assessment for the Castle Project will be co-ordinated, so the BC Environmental Assessment Office and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada are working through how they’re going to coordinate the environmental assessment.”
Fraser said the project is targeting regulatory approvals for mid-2023 with coal production to follow by 2026.
The pit shell that the project is moving forward with contains an estimated 360 million tons of mine-able coal, which means a mine life of approximately 40 years, said Fraser.
The plan is to use the current tailings facilities at Fording River until 2030s, but Fraser noted the company is working through two options for the future. Some decisions that have been made since the project was first introduced has reduced the proposed footprint by 290 hectares, he added.
Fording River has been in operation since 1972, but was purchased by Teck in 2008. Currently the mine employs 1,400 people and produces roughly 9 million tons per year.
Fraser noted the company has had some early feedback, in terms of key topics of interest regarding the Castle Mountain project, which include water quality impacts, impacts to species at risk, impacts to land use practices for Indigenous purposes and trans-boundary effects.
In August, the proposed expansion was tagged for a federal assessment, a process that was advocated by local environmental groups concerned about the project’s potential impact to the landscape, water quality and wildlife.
Calls for a federal impact assessment came from a number of sources, including Wildsight, a local environmental organization that has raised numerous concerns with the proposed Castle Mountain expansion.