Teck Resources Ltd. (TSX: TCK.A and TCK.B, NYSE: TCK), Canada’s largest producer of metallurgical coal, on April 15 received an Area Based Management Plan Order from the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, providing clarity around watershed protection and mining activities in the Elk Valley of B.C.
“This is a positive step that will provide a regulatory basis to deal with impacts of mining on water quality in the Elk Valley, and will establish a regulatory context for permitting of future mining activity,” said Teck in an April 15 statement. “The Order, issued under Section 89 of the Environmental Management Act, stipulates the development of an area-based management plan, in consultation with communities of interest. The plan to be developed will address the impact of selenium and other substances released by mining activities throughout the watershed, associated economic and social costs and benefits, and concentration targets and time-frames required to stabilize and reduce levels of these substances.”
Teck, like many coal producers in the U.S., particularly in Central Appalachia, has lately faced expensive new restrictions on the amount of selenium, which is poisonous in large quantities, that is allowed to run off mine sites in waste water.
The provincial order establishes a long-term selenium concentration target for Lake Koocanusa which Teck expects can be achieved using water treatment technologies described in its draft valley-wide Selenium Management Action Plan, which was submitted to regulators early in the first quarter. Development of the area-based plan in accordance with the order and the associated public consultation is expected to take up to 15 months. Permitting activities on the Line Creek Phase II coal mine expansion project and other Teck projects are expected to continue in the interim.
“Teck is committed to maintaining the health of the Elk River and this step by the province provides a path forward to finalizing an Elk Valley Water Quality Plan,” said Marcia Smith, Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs. “This measure recognizes the priority of protecting the environment while also ensuring the economic well-being of local communities and residents.”
As the operator of five met coal mines in the Elk Valley which directly employ over 4,000 people, Teck said it is committed to continuing to work with communities, First Nations and other local stakeholders to finalize an area-based plan that achieves the shared goal of protecting the watershed and economic health of the region.
The plan includes investments by Teck over the next five years of up to C$600m on the installation of water diversion and treatment facilities, investments in research and development to improve selenium management, and ongoing aquatic monitoring.
“We have been taking action on this issue for the past several years,” added Smith. “To date, we have constructed several water diversions to keep water clean, and construction is currently underway on our first water treatment plant at Line Creek Operations.”
The Line Creek operation is located about 25 kilometers north of Sparwood in southeastern British Columbia. It supplies steelmaking and thermal coal to a variety of international and domestic customers.