The BC government has fined Teck Coal $16.5 million for failure to construct a water treatment facility by the required permit date, along with fines for exceedances in selenium and nitrate.
Wildsight 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. 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.
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. For over a decade, the transboundary Ktunaxa Nation has been urging the Canadian and US governments to take action. 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.
“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. He 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.
Teck Coal made international headlines in 2021 when it was fined $60 million for violations under the Fisheries Act.
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. The International Joint Commission is the best path forward to address the ongoing water quality issues in the Elk and Kootenay Rivers.
Determination of Administrative Penalty
KNC recognizes Province for enforcing regulatory requirements intended to address water quality pollution
Re: Request from the Indigenous Governments of the Transboundary Ktunaxa Nation for a Reference to the International Joint Commission on the Transboundary Kootenay/Kootenai Watershed
Teck fined $60 million for water pollution in B.C.’s Elk Valley
Selenium in the Elk Valley: Teck’s $1.4M fine highlights long-term problems
An Overview of Coal Mining in the Elk Valley