Helping to Protect Water Quality with New Blasting Practices that Reduce Nitrate at the Source

March 11, 2020

Controlled blasts using explosives happen daily at our steelmaking coal operations to access new steelmaking coal seams. However, nitrate in the explosives can dissolve in groundwater and end up in the environment. In high enough concentrations, nitrate can have adverse impacts on water quality. To stop this from occurring, Teck partnered with our explosives and plastics providers, to pioneer a new solution, and prevent explosive materials from coming into contact with water.

Our steelmaking coal operations use two types of explosives: Ammonium Nitrate/Fuel Oil (ANFO), used in dry conditions, and emulsion, used in wet conditions. Historically, blasthole liners have only been used with dry explosives, as emulsion explosives used in wet conditions are less reactive to water. However, new research has shown that wet explosives can also introduce nitrate into the environment. 

After learning more about the potential impact of wet explosives on water quality, we worked with explosives provider Maxam and plastics provider Friesen Plastics to develop a new nitrate source control solution. Together we developed a custom-made plastic liner for blast holes where wet explosives are used.

A Culture of Collaboration

Through collaboration between Teck, Maxam and Friesen Plastics, various combinations of procedures, liner types and explosive truck modifications were trialed at Fording River Operations throughout 2019 until a system was perfected.

Achieving this important result didn’t happen easily, and more than 20 prototypes and countless tests were conducted to overcome challenges.

“This will significantly reduce nitrate at source and help protect water quality. Great things can happen when you get the right team together,” said Jeff Hawley, Manager, Operations Improvement, Business Improvement.

Benefits of New Blast Hole Liners

Our steelmaking coal operations now can use liners for both ANFO and emulsion explosives in blasting holes, with a goal to fully implement the practice at all operations in the first part of 2020.

“Testing indicates that the use of liners for nitrate source control can have a significant positive effect on water quality and could eventually eliminate the need for water treatment for nitrates in the Elk Valley,” added Jeff. “This innovative source control measure will help us meet our water quality commitments and maintain the health of the watersheds where we operate.”

Learn more about our approach to protecting water quality in the Water Stewardship section of our website



First Published on March 11, 2020