Water quality challenges in the Elk Valley are connected to the long history of mining in the region. The mining process generates large quantities of leftover rock that contains naturally-occurring substances such as selenium, an element that is essential for human and animal health in small amounts. Water from both 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.
Developing the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan
In 2013, in consultation with the Government of BC, the Ktunaxa Nation, scientists, and local communities, Teck developed the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan, which was approved by the Provincial Government in 2014. This is a long-term plan with the goal of stabilizing and reversing the trend of selenium, calcite and other constituents and improving the health of the watershed, while at the same time allowing for continued sustainable mining in the region.
Implementing the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan
Teck has made significant progress implementing the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. Water treatment facilities are operating now that are successfully improving water quality with more facilities planned and under construction.
Our first water treatment facility is successfully treating 7.5 million litres of water per day at our Line Creek Operations and we are seeing reductions in selenium and nitrate concentrations downstream.
Our second water treatment facility, the Elkview Saturated Rock Fill, has been achieving near complete removal of selenium and nitrate from up to 10 million litres of water per day since 2018. In 2020, this Saturated Rock Fill was expanded and is now treating up to 20 million litres of water per day.
Our third water treatment facility, the Fording River South Water Treatment Facility, is now operating with capacity to treat up to 20 million litres of water per day.
Our fourth water treatment facility, the Fording River North Saturated Rock Fill, is currently commissioning with expected initial capacity to treat up to 7 million litres of water per day. Construction is underway to expand this facility to 30 million litres of water per day later in 2022.
Teck’s water treatment facilities are achieving approximately 95% removal of selenium and nitrate from treated water. We expect further significant reductions of selenium and nitrate as additional facilities come online.
Right: Water treatment facilities built, under construction and planned (click to enlarge)
Increasing water treatment capacity
Following the start-up of the Fording River South Water Treatment Facility, Teck now has up to 47.5 million litres per day of water treatment capacity in the Elk Valley. After completion of the FRO-N SRF water treatment facility later this year, Teck will have capacity to treat up to 77.5 million litres of water per day, a four-fold increase from its treatment capacity in 2020. With the additional capacity, Teck expects to achieve one of the primary objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan: stabilizing and reducing the selenium trend in the valley.