Our Commitment to Water Quality
Water quality challenges in the Elk Valley are related to a long history of mining in the region. Teck has been taking action for years to protect and improve water quality through the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (EVWQP). Below are a number of frequently asked questions about the Plan, including why it’s important, how it’s being implemented and the progress to date.
What’s the nature of water quality challenges in the Elk Valley?
The mining process generates large quantities of leftover rock that contains naturally occurring substances such as selenium. Water from precipitation and runoff flows through these rock piles and carries selenium and other substances, such as nitrate, into the local watershed. If present in high- enough concentrations in the watershed, these substances can adversely affect aquatic health.
Why is the EVWQP important to the Elk Valley and to Teck?
The Plan is important because its implementation will help stabilize and reverse the trend of selenium and other substances to ensure the ongoing health of the watershed, while at the same time allowing for continued sustainable mining in the region.
How was the Plan developed?
The Elk Valley Water Quality Plan is an area-based management plan that was approved by the British Columbia Ministry of Environment in 2014. It was informed by scientific advice received from a Technical Advisory Committee with participation from government, First Nations, an independent scientist and community input received through public consultation.
How is the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan being implemented?
There are five key components of the Plan’s implementation:
Targets: Setting short-, medium- and long-term water quality targets that are protective of aquatic and human health.
Water Management: Implementing water treatment and mitigation actions to achieve targets.
Monitoring: Defining a monitoring program for water quality and aquatic health.
Research & Development: Undertaking a Research & Development (R&D) program to find the most effective ways to ensure water quality. (See R&D Successes below.)
Adaptive Management: Establishing a multi-decade plan, and adapting implementation based on new information and technology.
Who oversees the management of the Plan?
The Plan’s management is overseen by an Environmental Monitoring Committee (EMC), consisting of experts from the B.C. Ministry of Environment, B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, the B.C. Interior Health Authority, the Ktunaxa Nation Council and an independent scientist. Teck provides input on implementation of the plan.
What progress has been made in the area of water treatment?
Teck is making significant progress towards achieving the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan and improving water quality.
Our first water treatment facility at West Line Creek is successfully treating up to 7.5 million litres of water per day, and our first Saturated Rock Fill (SRF) facility has been successfully treating up to 10 million litres of mine-affected water per day at Elkview Operations (EVO).
The plan is working: the EVO SRF is achieving near-complete removal of selenium and nitrate, and we are seeing reductions in selenium concentrations downstream of the West Line Creek treatment facility.
What’s next for the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan?
Next steps for the EVWQP include:
Working to double the treatment capacity at the Elkview SRF to nearly 20 million litres per day in 2021
Completing construction of the Fording River South tank-based plant, with an expected capacity of nearly 20 million litres per day, which is scheduled to be operational in 2021
Boosting treatment capacity to 47.3 million litres per day in 2021, which is expected to further reduce selenium and nitrate concentrations
Teck has more than 25 research and development projects underway, including the advancement of smaller in situ water treatment facilities that can be built closer to where treatment is needed. Below are just two of our R&D successes.
Saturated Rock Fill Project
The Saturated Rock Fill (SRF) facility at Teck’s Elkview Operations, commissioned in January 2018, is achieving near-complete removal of selenium and nitrate in 10 million litres of mine-affected water per day.
Nitrate Prevention Technique
The R&D program led to the development of Teck’s nitrate prevention technique, which uses liners that prevent explosives with nitrate from coming in contact with water. When fully implemented through 2020, the majority of blastholes will contain a liner that is predicted to reduce release of nitrate by more than 90% and help to protect water quality.
To learn more about Responsible Mining in the Elk Valley, please visit www.teck.com/elkvalley.