Teck Resources Limited has received an Area Based Management Plan Order from the B.C. Ministry of Environment, providing clarity around watershed protection and allowing the company to move forward with mining activities in the Elk Valley.
“This order we received from the B.C. government is a positive step towards really finalizing a regulatory basis to dealing with this issue,” said Marcia Smith, Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs. “We are very committed to maintaining the health of the Elk River and this really provides us with a path forward so we can finalize a water quality plan for the Elk Valley.”
The Order, issued under Section 89 of the Environmental Management Act, stipulates the development of an area-based management plan to address the impact of selenium and other substances released by mining activities throughout the watershed. It will also look at associated economic and social costs and benefits, as well as concentration targets and time-frames required to stabilize and reduce levels of these substances.
Development of the plan is expected to take up to 15 months and activities on Line Creek Phase II and other Teck projects are expected to move forward as originally planned.
“We are expecting our permitting activities on Line Creek II will continue on the timelines they are on now and will continue as they are now, and the process the B.C. Government asked us to do yesterday will start now,” stated Smith.
Environmental group Wildsight is pleased to see a direct response from the B.C. Government to what they believe are toxic levels of selenium in the Elk River.
“This is a first step toward a solution,” said John Bergenske, Executive Director. “Wildsight looks forward to working with Teck, the Ktunaxa, communities, and government ministries toward a long term solution. British Columbians cannot be satisfied until toxicity is reduced and enforceable standards are in place that assure a healthy river system. We are not there yet. The Ministry of Environment order outlines the beginning of a process.”
He added, “Wildsight’s goal remains a balance between extraction of this world class metallurgical coal resource and maintaining the globally significant wildlife, including fish and aquatic species, of Canada’s southern Rocky Mountains.”
The Order establishes a long-term selenium concentration target for Lake Koocanusa, which Teck expects can be achieved using water treatment technologies they have outlined in their Valley-Wide Selenium Management Action Plan.
“We have developed a plan and it does have a number of measures in it. We have been moving forward with some of those activities already, water diversion has been put in place at two of our sites,” explained Smith. “The Line Creek treatment facility is under construction. We expect construction will be complete by January 2014, and the plant is expected to be in full operation by June 2014.”
The water diversion and treatment facility are part of an overall water management plan that Teck has committed to spending up to $600 million on over the next five years.
Teck will continue to work with the communities of the Elk Valley, First Nations, and other stakeholders to finalize the area-based plan to achieve the shared goal of protecting the watershed and economic health of the region.