Teck is proposing a significant expansion to their Fording River Operations.

Castle Project moves through assessment process

Teck’s Fording River expansion has three years of pre-development ahead of it

District of Sparwood councillors have received a new update on how Teck is progressing its Fording River expansion, the Castle Project.

In a presentation to the District of Sparwood on the Castle Project, Norman Fraser, who is Teck’s indigenous lead, said that the project was about “sustaining (Fording River’s) operation, sustaining the benefits to Sparwood and to the broader Elk Valley.”

The Castle Project is planned to be the future of the Fording River Operations, which Teck predicts will see declines in economically minable coal starting in the mid-2020s.

“We’re looking to Castle to be that source of coal for the future at Fording River to maintain our production levels, maintain that employment and our ability to provide steel-making coal to our customers for several decades.”

Earlier in 2020 the Castle Project was marked for a federal environmental assessment in addition to the already-ongoing BC environmental assessment, meaning the project would be under the microscope of two different assessment agencies.

“It’s still early days in terms of that coordination and working through some of the details,” said Fraser, who reported that the coordinated assessment process was expected to take “several years”.

Fraser said that they were expecting both provincial and federal decisions on the environmental assessment of the Castle Project in mid-2023, though the project is still in the pre-feasibility stage. The project requires about three years of pre-development activity on behalf of Teck, with (if the decisions are favorable) production to begin in 2026.

“There’s still a lot of work going in terms of mine planning, exploration and defining the core resource and collecting data both environmental and social.”

Fraser said that the Castle Project contained approximately 360 million tonnes of coal, “which equates to about a 40-year mine life at our current production of 9 million tonnes per year,” he said.

“So, a large resource, but we’re further defining that. That would take the life of Fording River Operations into 2070.”

On feedback through engagement, Fraser said that some of the key topics raised were “likely no surprise,” such as water quality, species at risk, cumulative effects, the importance of the mining economy, impacts to traditional and current land use and impacts on areas of federal jurisdiction such as fish and fish habitat.

Approximately 800 Teck workers reside in the District of Sparwood, including 199 employees of the Fording River operations.

Almost $400 million in economic contributions flowed from Teck to Sparwood over 2019, with that number including taxes, wages and benefits paid to employees, community investment and payments to suppliers.

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