Calling for an environmental assessment before expanding Teck’s Elk Valley coal mine

Photo by Forest Service Northern Region via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Program area – Climate Status: Victory
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Together with our clients at Wildsight, Ecojustice successfully called for a federal impact assessment of Teck’s proposed Elk Valley mine expansion  in the summer of 2020.

Found in the Elk Valley in the Rocky Mountains, the combined size of Teck’s existing Fording River Operations and the proposed Castle Mountain project would make it British Columbia’s largest coal mine.

This complex of mines for steelmaking coal is a known source of a long-term selenium pollution that spans borders and decades. Ecojustice is also concerned about the climate impacts of mining, transporting, and using coal to produce steel impacts the climate.

That’s why Ecojustice sent a letter to Minister of Environment and Climate Change on behalf of Wildsight in June 2020, demanding the minister designate Teck’s proposed mine expansion for an environmental assessment.

In August 2020, the minister agreed.

In addition to climate concerns, the Elk Valley mine threatens Westslope cutthroat trout, which are listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Once it poisons waterways, selenium pollution can last in those ecosystems for thousands of years. According to Wildsight, expanding the Castle Mountain mine would worsen this pollution for hundreds of kilometres downstream, on both the Canadian and American sides of the border.

If built, the Elk Valley expansion would be immediately upstream of a river where 93 per cent of these adult trout have disappeared over the past two years. The expansion would add to this toxic pollution, threaten travel pathways for grizzly bears and wolverines, and lead to major mining and downstream carbon emissions.

What this victory means

A federal impact assessment will help address the concerns Ecojustice and Wildsight have about the proposed Castle Mountain mine expansion and give organizations and members of the community the opportunity to present arguments and evidence.

Ecojustice is also pleased that the minister’s decision acknowledges the coal mine expansion may have adverse impacts on Indigenous rights. Together with our clients, we continue to call for a thorough assessment process that will meaningfully engage and protect those rights.

Key developments

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