Support increases for a federal assessment of Teck’s Castle mine expansion. File Photo

Support increases for a federal assessment of Teck’s Castle mine expansion. File Photo

Conservation groups call for federal assessment of Teck’s Castle Mine

Concerns revolve around water pollution, habitat loss, and carbon emissions

Adding to growing concern over increased mining in the Elk Valley, thirty-three conservation groups have joined the call for a federal assessment of Teck’s Castle mine expansion.

The project would see an expansion of the Fording River Mine, turning Castle into Teck’s primary coal source while increasing the area of mining operations by around 50 percent.

In a press release sent on July 24, Lars Sander-Green, mining coordinator for Wildsight, highlighted issues with provincial assessments of the expansion, stating they only appraised coal mine pollution as far south as the US border.

“Over the last decade, we’ve seen weak provincial environmental assessments for coal mines in the Elk Valley that have allowed water pollution way above safe limits,” said Sander-Green. “That’s why we need a federal assessment, to make sure our clean water and fish are protected, now and in the long-term.”

Both Canadian and American conservation groups have advocated for a federal assessment, asking federal environment minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, to review the proposed mine. Among those groups are the US Kootenai Tribes, the Ktunaxa Nation, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The US Sierra Club, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society of British Columbia and Southern Alberta, Amnesty International Canada and Nature Canada have also joined the 750 people who sent messages to both Wilkinson and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.

“As much as the province of British Columbia would like to think otherwise, the impacts of their projects absolutely extend beyond their borders,” said Dave Hadden of Headwaters Montana, one of the groups in support of the federal assessment. “These are trans-boundary issues with international implications, and they require a federal response.”

Of the 17 American groups calling for a federal assessment, the majority are especially concerned with water pollution in the Kootenai River through Montana and Idaho, further endangering the white sturgeon living between the Kootenai River and Kootenay Lake.

According to Sander-Green, Canadian conservation groups are worried about the removal of Castle Mountain and its high elevation grassland habitat, an area crucial for bighorn sheep and the travel of wolverines and grizzly bears up and down the continental divide.

Adding to effects, the mine expansion would increase water pollution of the already contaminated Fording River, where the population of the westslope cutthroat trout has been declining for the past two years. Pollution such as selenium from the mine would also increase risks to fish further down the Elk River.

Concerns extend to the climate impacts of coal mining. Sander-Green states that the steel making coal deriving from the Elk Valley adds more carbon pollution to the atmosphere than all the other emissions from vehicles, buildings, farms and factories in the entire province. As a result, an expansion of the mine would significantly push back efforts in reducing carbon emissions.

“We can’t afford to commit to 35 more years of these huge carbon emissions, no matter where in the world they happen,” said Sander-Green. “Castle would operate from roughly 2025-2060. On a global scale, we’re already moving towards steel made with renewable energy instead of coal, and we have lower carbon alternatives that can help that transition that have been in use for 50 years already. We absolutely have to make that transition a lot sooner than 2060 if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, because steel making is responsible for roughly five per cent of global emissions.”

At the moment, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada is conducting an analysis and will make a recommendation to the minister about whether or not to appoint the project under the Impact Assessment Act. Wilkinson has until August 19 to order a federal assessment for the Castle mine.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
57 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

Thirty people in the region are in hospital, 16 of whom are in intensive care

New business owner Kalina Whitelaw of Miner's Mud started selling coffee and fresh=baked goods in Fernie this weekend. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Bob Keating was CBC’s Kootenays correspondent for 21 years. He retired last month to start a podcasting company. Photo: Tyler Harper
The voice of the Kootenays: CBC correspondent Bob Keating retires

Keating had reported out of Nelson since 2000

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The White House says it is making plans to share up to 60 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 11,075 since the pandemic began

Teck's Elkview operations seen from Sparwood. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Teck profits up, coal sales to China a priority

The company is continuing to see increased interest in Elk Valley coal from China

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Most Read