Work has begun on a new water treatment facility designed to improve water quality at a coal mine in the Elk Valley.
Located at Teck’s Fording River Operations north of Elkford, the Fording River South Active Water Treatment Facility will remove selenium and nitrate from mine-affected water.
The Canadian mining giant expects to invest between $850 and $900 million over the next five years on the construction of water treatment facilities as part of its commitment to the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan.
The goal of the plan is to stabilize and reverse the increasing trend of selenium and other substances in the watershed, while at the same time allowing for continued sustainable mining in the region.
Selenium is a naturally-occurring element essential to humans and animals.
However, when present in increased concentrations, as can happen through coal mining when selenium is released from waste rock, it can impact ecosystems.
Controlling the flow of selenium has proved a problem for Teck, which is funding a new well for the District of Sparwood after repeated closures of Well #3 due to elevated selenium levels.
The Fording River facility will draw water from tributaries flowing to the river and use biological treatment technology to precipitate selenium into a solid form that can be extracted from the water.
The plant will also incorporate technology developed for the West Line Creek Active Water Treatment Facility to correct previously identified performance challenges.
Early construction work, including site preparation and clearing, started in May and the facility is expected to be operational in 2020.
Once completed, the facility will treat 20 million litres of water per day.
“This new water treatment facility is an important step in our work to protect and improve water quality in the Elk Valley, while supporting continued responsible mining,” said Robin Sheremeta, Senior Vice President, Coal.
“Teck is committed to completing the work necessary to implement the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan and supporting the environmental and economic wellbeing of the region.”