Sparwood residents gathered at the Sparwood Seniors Drop-In Centre last week to review Teck’s Baldy Ridge Extension Project, a project that would extend production at the Elkview operation for another 30 years.
During the open house, hosted last Wednesday evening, Teck representatives along with British Columbia Environmental Assessment representatives displayed their future objectives and plans for the project, after which they were available to speak with residents.
“We’ve determined that this project has to have an Environmental Assessment (EA),” said Kate Haines, Environmental Assessment Officer. “The reason we’re here talking with the community today is to make sure that we identify issues and values that are important to this community and to understand the local circumstances when we send out those information requirements that the company has to provide.”
Manager of Community and Aboriginal Affairs for Teck, Nic Milligan added, “This project is proceeding as an Environmental Assessment under the BC Environmental Assessment Act. Under the process, the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office lead open house events in conjunction with the company to provide the public with the opportunity to comment on the key aspects of the project and the valued components selected for assessment.”
Included in those information requirements is an assessment of the groundwater quality and quantity, a surface water assessment, a measurement of the current vegetation and ecosystems in the project area and a measurement of the noise and vibration levels from existing mine operations.
Public feedback was highlighted during the open house, as Teck noted that residents major concerns were having waste rock spoils so close to the community, the impact of noise and vibration from the mine operation, what visual changes the project might entail, how Teck will manage dust disposal and how the Baldy Ridge Extension Project will affect the community’s water quality.
“This project is located so close to the community that the public has a really strong interest on what’s going on and in voicing their concerns,” Haines noted. “What we hear from the community during the common periods and the open houses gets heard by the ministers [Ministry of Environment] and then it’s their decision whether or not to issue a certificate for the project.”
The current Elkview mine operation is located just three kilometres east of Sparwood and the extension would bring the Teck mining operation even closer to the District of Sparwood.
The Baldy Ridge project would entail the development of new pits, the placement of waste rock, the expansion of existing tailings facilities and finally the relocation of mining infrastructure. Major components of this proposed project would include the extension of Baldy Ridge, Adit Ridge and Natal Ridge; the expansion of existing facilities for fine tailing and coarse coal rejects; the potential relocation of the existing raw coal conveyor and maintenance and administration facilities; the development of water treatment as outlined in the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan and finally mine reclamation, closure and monitoring.
With the recent deceased aquatic life found at Teck’s Line Creek Operations in October 2014, it is not surprising that residents have been raising concern over the impact the Baldy Ridge Extension Project may have on aquatic life.
Back in October a total of 34 westslope cutthroat trout were found dead at the Line Creek Operations, forcing the company to temporarily shut down the water treatment facility.
“We have been working in cooperation with provincial and federal governments, First Nations, communities, governments in the U.S. and technical experts to develop an Elk Valley Water Quality Plan that will set out the approach to stabilizing and reversing selenium levels within the Elk Valley,” Milligan said following the incident.
With that in mind, Teck will be incorporating the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan to assess aquatic and terrestrial wildlife health in the waters near the Baldy Ridge site.
In order to protect the health of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, Teck will be analyzing the concentrations of metals and other substances in aquatic habitats, in dust that may be deposited on the ground, in local soils and vegetation and in fish, birds, amphibians, aquatic invertebrates and algae.
“We’ve definitely heard a lot today about dust, noise, blasting, air quality and water quality,” Haines noted.
Once all the gathered information from Teck is acquired, the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) will be given a 180-day review period in which they must build and provide a report to the Ministry of Environment. Before that 180-day review period, the EAO will be checking back in with the public, presenting their findings and addressing any further concerns in regards to the Baldy Ridge Extension Project.