British Columbia Environment Minister Mary Polak and Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett have issued an environmental assessment certificate to Teck Coal Ltd. for the Fording River Operations Swift project, which is located 20 kilometres northeast of Elkford.
The decision, said the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office in a Sept. 10 statement, considered the requirements of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan approved by the Minister of Environment in November 2014. The ministers have issued the certificate with legally enforceable conditions that have given them the confidence to conclude that the project will be constructed, operated and decommissioned in a way that ensures that no significant adverse effects are likely to occur.
There are 19 conditions that are part of the environmental assessment certificate. Each of the conditions and the certified project description are legally binding requirements that Teck must meet to be in compliance with the certificate. The certificate conditions were developed following consultation and input from the Ktunaxa Nation Council, government agencies, communities and the public. Key conditions for the project require Teck to:
- Hire an independent environmental monitor to audit whether Teck is complying with the conditions in the environmental assessment certificate;
- Construct and operate water treatment plants at Fording River Operations in accordance with the timeframe and specifications set out in the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan;
- Develop management plans to monitor and mitigate effects on wildlife, fish and fish habitat, air quality and noise, public access, and water, as well as effects from invasive plants; and
- Establish an advisory group to provide scientific, technical and Aboriginal advice on strategies to evaluate and reduce impacts on biodiversity from this and other projects operated by Teck in the Elk Valley.
With an initial construction cost of C$88.5 million and an operating cost of approximately C$16.9 billion, the Swift project is an extension of the currently operating Fording River Operations surface coal mine. The project, which will use existing mine facilities, will produce 170 million tonnes of coal over 25 years. Teck expects to maintain the approximately 1,000 full-time-equivalent employees at the existing Fording River Operations, with an additional 300 to 500 full-time jobs during construction.
Teck Coal, part of commodities producer Teck Resources, is Canada’s largest exporter of metallurgical coal. Said the company website: “Teck’s Fording River operation is located 29 kilometres northeast of the community of Elkford, in southeastern British Columbia. The mine produces steelmaking coal. The current annual production capacities of the mine and preparation plant are approximately 8.5 million and 9.5 million tonnes of clean coal, respectively. Proven and probable reserves at Fording River are projected to support mining at planned production rates for a further 73 years.”