The Elk Valley Water Quality Plan, developed to address increasing levels of selenium in the Elk Valley’s rivers, was approved last week.
A project board, comprised of Teck, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Energy and Mines as well as the Ktunaxa Nation and Wildsight, established the plan.
“Over the last decade, companies and people who work in the federal fisheries department and the Minitry of Environment provincially have realized that [selenium] is a component that needs to be measured and the content in the water was going up,” said MLA Bill Bennett.
Bennett acknowledged that in moving forward with this plan, the board had to find ways to balance Teck’s financial stability with problem-solving action.
“We’ve managed to find a way to create a plan that I think is going to do what the public expects us to do but also enable this mining operation to continue to employ all the people that they do in the Elk Valley,” said Bennett.
He added, “If the company goes out of business and if the government drives the company out of business, it becomes the duty of the government to take over managing this problem. The challenge is not to drive the company into bankruptcy but to push them to get this done as quickly as possible.”
The plan will include Teck investing $600 million over the next five years into water treatment plants.
One such plant at the Line Creek Operations, which cost the company $100 million, is still undergoing investigation in response to the death of 34 fish.
“It’s a long-term project,” admitted Bennett, “it’s not something that’s going to happen in a year or two or perhaps even in a decade.”