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Wildsight applauds fine of Teck Coal Ltd

Wildsight said Teck Coal Ltd based in the Elk Valley failed to to construct a water treatment facility by the required permit data, along with fines for exceedances in selenium and nitrate. — Photo courtesy Alec Underwood

An environmental group in the East Kootenay, Wildsight, strongly supports a recent fine of Teck Coal Limited for failure to construct a water treatment facility by the required permit data, along with fines for exceedances in selenium and nitrate.

Teck Coal Limited was fined $16.5 million by the BC Government.

Wildsight, based in Kimberley with satellite offices in Creston, Elk Valley, Golden, Invermere, Cranbrook and Revelstoke, said it strongly supports the administrative penalties issued by the BC Ministry of the Environment for failures to construct the Fording River South Active Water Treatment Facility by the date required within their valley-wide permit.

Wildsight said these fines include exceedances in selenium and nitrate at compliance points downstream of the Fording River, Greenhills, and Line Creek mines, and in the transboundary Lake Koocanusa Reservoir. 

“Exceedances of limits set within the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan are commonplace in the Elk Valley and have led to transboundary downstream impacts,” says Wildsight’s Mining Policy and Impacts Researcher Wyatt Petryshen in a media release.

Petryshen also notes the 2016 Auditor General’s Report on Compliance and Enforcement of the Mining Sector in British Columbia, which highlights how the lack of sufficient and effective regulatory oversight and action has allowed for the degradation of water quality in the Elk River.

“The continued exceedances highlight the importance of having effective compliance and enforcement but also highlights how the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan has failed to resolve the selenium and nitrate problem that has been known for over two decades,” says Petryshen. 

Wildsight said increasing selenium concentrations, along with other contaminants, have caused significant harm to the environment in the Elk and transboundary Kootenay Watershed, to Ktunaxa rights and cultural practices, and poses a potential risk to human health.

“Selenium concentrations have been steadily rising in the Elk Valley since its initial discovery in 1995,” Wildsight said.

“For over a decade, the transboundary Ktunaxa Nation has been urging the Canadian and US governments to take action.”

Wildsight said in November of 2022, a joint letter was sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Biden.

“While the US has joined the call for a reference to the International Joint Commission, the Canadian government continues to fail at meaningfully responding or consulting with the Ktunaxa Nation,” Wildsight said.

Teck Coal made international headlines in 2021 when it was fined $60 million for violations under the Fisheries Act.

Teck Coal, a subsidiary of Teck Resources Limited, said in a statement that the Fording River water treatment facility is now operating and “achieving near-complete removal of selenium from treated water.”

“We welcome the increased enforcement action within the Elk Valley and the BC Ministry of Environment’s recognition of the Ktunaxa as the stewards of ʔamakʔis Ktunaxa,” Wildsight said.

“The International Joint Commission is the best path forward to address the ongoing water quality issues in the Elk and Kootenay Rivers.”