Improving Aquatic Habitat at Greenhills

December 12, 2017

We operate five steelmaking coal mines in the Elk Valley of British Columbia, which employ more than 4,000 people. We raise our families in the valley, fish and swim in the river and care deeply about ensuring the environment is protected. Managing calcite formation is part of our approach to protecting aquatic life now and for generations to come. 

In October 2017, we completed the successful installation of our first calcite management system on Greenhills Creek at Greenhills Operations. Calcite management is part of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan and the new system is designed to prevent further calcite formation.  

Pictured Above: Alan Beran, Engineer Projects (left) and Kevin Atherton, Superintendent Calcite Management (right). 

What is calcite?
Calcite is a hard mineral that can form on streambeds and is the same as the buildup that forms in tea kettles or water heaters in homes with hard water. Calcite occurs naturally, but its formation can be accelerated by runoff water from mines. It is not a human health concern, but excessive calcite build-up can change the characteristics of streambeds by cementing rocks together and affecting habitat for fish and invertebrates.

What is Teck’s approach to calcite management? 
In 2013, we developed a program to quantify, monitor, and assess potential effects of calcite deposits in the Elk Valley. All waterbodies downstream of areas disturbed by mining were surveyed. Four streams – Greenhills Creek, Corbin Creek, Elkview Dry Creek and Erickson Creek – were identified as priority streams because they support fish habitat and calcite formation was higher than other streams.

Use of an antiscalant additive was identified as the preferred method for calcite management of at Greenhills Creek. The antiscalant selected is an environmentally safe chemical that inhibits the formation of calcite.

How does the calcite management system at Greenhills work?
The system diverts some of the water from Greenhills Creek, adds the antiscalant to prevent further calcite formation, and returns the diverted water to the stream. The antiscalant addition is carefully controlled to match the stream flow conditions, so that the desired concentration in the stream is achieved. 

In 2018 and beyond, the team will conduct studies to confirm the effectiveness of the new calcite management system and changes to the stream. The results of their research will inform the next steps for managing calcite in other locations. 

“We are proud to implement the first calcite management system in Canada at Teck Greenhills Operations,” said Strahan Loken, Senior Engineer Projects. “Consultation with the Ktunaxa Nation and collaboration with the BC government, consultants, contractors and internal experts at Teck made this project possible.”

What is next for calcite management in the Elk Valley?
We set medium and long-term targets for calcite management as part of the development of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. In the medium term, our target is to reduce the level of calcite in the most important streams that provide fish habitat, while we continue to study the effects of calcite on aquatic health. In the long term, our target is to reduce calcite in streams to a level that matches other streams unaffected by mining. 

See the Calcite Management chapter on pages 159 – 183 in the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan and the Calcite chapter in the 2017 Environmental Monitoring Committee Report for more information. 



First Published on December 12, 2017