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Posted: November 3, 2020

Wildsight questions federal direction to Teck

Teck Resources Limited last week announced that Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a ‘Direction’ under the Fisheries Act to Teck Coal, setting out measures to be taken to improve water quality and prevent calcite deposition in the Elk Valley in waters affected by Teck’s Fording River and Greenhills operations.

The measures set out in the Direction are complementary to measures already included in the Elk Water Quality Plan (EVWQP) being implemented by Teck, the company pointed out in an Oct. 29 media release.

Wildsight’s Mining Lead, Lars Sander-Green, says he is uncertain what that direction is about.

“We don’t know the full details about what this Direction from Environment and Climate Change Canada orders Teck to do (neither Teck nor Environment Canada is sharing the content of the order, at least with us), but the main point seems to be that Teck will have to start a small trial of a geo-synthetic cover on part of a waste rock dump, nine years from now, which may show that this idea works or doesn’t work years after 2030,” he said.

“Teck has been talking about trying out a cover of this type for a decade and now they’re going to take another nine years to start a trial. That’s way too little and way too late. There are real problems in the Elk Valley that need more action now, not a trial project starting in 2030.

Environment Canada began its investigation into the dangers for fish from the coal mines in 2012, with an expert report showing 180,000 missing fish because of reproductive problems annually in 2014.

“Since then, Environment Canada has been silent while pollution levels rise. Why isn’t Environment Canada taking action to protect fish from Teck’s coal mine pollution, especially Species at Risk Act listed westslope cutthroat trout?”

Sander-Green said the upper Fording River westslope cutthroat trout population collapsed over the past few years, with 93% of adult fish gone from 2017 to 2019.

“We’re left wondering why Environment Canada isn’t willing to step up and make sure our fish are protected from water pollution. Environment Canada has said nothing about this fish population collapse, even though the upper Fording River is the most heavily polluted river in the Elk Valley, he said, adding, “While there are already federal regulations about water pollution that affects fish, Environment Canada has also developed draft regulations for water pollution from coal mines specifically and those draft regulations have a special section just for Teck, which would allow many times more toxic selenium pollution from Teck mines than from mines anywhere else in Canada.

“Why is Environment Canada going so easy on Teck when the impacts of open-pit coal mining water pollution are being seen not just in the Elk Valley, but hundreds of kilometres downstream in Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenay River?”

Lead image: Fording River, east of Elkford. e-KNOW file photo


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