Teck is seeking public input on a proposal to double the size of its Line Creek mine near Sparwood.
It is one of five mines Teck operates in the Elk Valley. Teck is the second largest exporter of steelmaking coal to the global steel industry, and the largest in North America.
The existing mine has been in production for nearly 29 years and it supports 470 full-time employees, according to Nic Milligan, Teck Coal’s Manager of Community and Aboriginal Affairs.
“At current production rates, the reserves in the existing Line Creek Operations (LCO) will be exhausted by approximately 2014. As part of our plan to sustain coal production into the future, we are proposing the development of two new operating areas directly north of our current operations.”
The new areas would develop reserves from the Mount Michael and Burnt Ridge North pits, and the expanded project would employ about 485 people.
“This number of direct jobs is similar to the current LCO workforce. As mining is finished at the existing site, workers will transition their duties to the new operating areas,” said Milligan.
What’s more, construction of the new project would employ about 100 people full time each year for two years.
Teck initiated the project in late 2009 and is now going through the approval process with the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO). The application has been formally accepted and is now in the review stage.
Once the review process is complete, the EAO will submit a report to provincial ministers by August 13, and the ministers are then tasked with deciding whether to approve the project.
Milligan said the new pits are expected to produce 59 million metric tonnes of clean (processed) coal and 600 million cubic metres of waste rock. If the project is approved production will begin in 2014. The new operating area would cover about 1,840 hectares.
The project will also include building an active selenium water treatment plant to remove selenium from runoff into the Dry Creek drainage basin. It would be commissioned in about 2022. Outside of the LCO project, another water treatment plant is proposed for West Line Creek, and it is expected to be commissioned in 2014.
Selenium is a natural element that can be toxic in high amounts.
It is released from rock that is exposed to the elements, and mining exposes large volumes of rock.
According to Teck, at low flow times of the year, selenium levels can occasionally exceed drinking water guidelines in watercourses near mine activity.
“The selenium treatment plants and other control measures that have been incorporated into the project will reduce total selenium releases from LCO so that they remain below current levels,” said Milligan.
Copies of Teck’s application to the EAO are available at Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford libraries, or online at www.eao.gov.bc.ca.
The public can comment on the application until April 5 at the same website, by fax to 250-356-6448, or by mail to Karen Christie, Project Assessment Director, Environmental Assessment Office, PO Box 9426 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, BC, V8W 9V1.