A Major Milestone in Water Quality

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A Major Milestone in Water Quality

A breakthrough in water treatment technology, Saturated Rock Fill has tremendous potential to improve the water quality in the Elk Valley, removing selenium and nitrate at greater volumes and at a fraction of the cost of other methods.

In January of this year, the Saturated Rock Fill (SRF) full-scale trial at Elkview Operations was commissioned and is showing promising results, treating 10 million litres of mine-affected water per day, and achieving near-complete removal of selenium and nitrate.

SRFs are a new form of water treatment that use naturally occurring biological processes in water collected in former mining areas to treat and improve water quality. They have the potential to augment or even replace traditional water treatment technology, treating large volumes of mine water at significantly reduced capital and operating costs.

“The success we’re seeing with Saturated Rock Fill is the result of our ongoing investment in leading-edge research and development to find new and better ways to protect water quality in the Elk Valley,” said Robin Sheremeta, Senior Vice President, Coal. “Teck is committed to meeting the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan, and breakthroughs like SRF will help us do so as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

“As next steps, we’re continuing to prove out the results of the Elkview facility and exploring broader implementation of the technology,” notes Robin. “This is a very exciting long-term development.”

Teck is committed to meeting the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan, and breakthroughs like SRF will help us do so as quickly and efficiently as possible.

How it works 

Mining steelmaking coal can require the removal and placement of large quantities of rock in piles. Water travels through these rock piles, picking up substances like selenium and nitrate along the way. Once that water leaves the rock piles, it gets carried into the watershed, where it can have adverse effects on water quality if constituents are in high enough concentrations.

The SRF facility uses naturally-occurring biological processes within the saturated zone of backfilled pits to treat the water by removing unwanted substances, namely selenium and nitrate. Mine-affected water is directed into the SRF facility where microorganisms use carbon to reduce nitrate and selenium.

To put it in perspective

The 10 million litres per day of mine-affected water currently being treated by SRF at Elkview in just a trial capacity, exceeds the 7.5 million litres per day design capacity of our West Line Creek Active Water Treatment facility, and does so at approximately one-fourth the capital cost, and half the ongoing operating cost.

A multi-pronged approach

Teck currently has more than 20 R&D projects underway related to water quality in the Elk Valley, including projects to better control release of water quality constituents at source and to develop new water treatment methods.

More information on the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan is available at www.teck.com/elkvalley.