Posted on June 24, 2020 (updated: June 24, 2020)

Ecojustice, Wildsight call for federal enviro minister to assess expansion of B.C.’s largest coal mine

Selenium pollution from Teck's Elk Valley mines threatens Westslope Cutthroat Trout
Photo by Forest Service Northern Region via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

VANCOUVER – Ecojustice and Wildsight are urging Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson to designate Teck Resources’ plan to expand British Columbia’s largest coal mine for an impact assessment. They join First Nations in Canada and Tribes in the United States, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the State of Montana and others in asking the Minister for the federal environmental assessment.

The Castle Mountain project would lead to a decades-long expansion of one of Teck’s steelmaking coal mines in the Elk Valley, which is located in the Rocky Mountains in B.C.’s southeast. Teck Resources, the company behind the proposal, already owns five mountain top-removal mines in the valley, which are the source of a long-term selenium pollution problem that threatens local populations of westslope cutthroat trout and other fish for hundreds of kilometres downstream.

Westslope cutthroat trout are listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The new mine would be immediately upstream of a river where 93 per cent of these adult trout 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.

The groups sent a letter to the Minister on June 23, urging him to designate the project for an impact assessment.

If an assessment goes ahead, the organizations and members of the community would have the opportunity to present arguments and evidence on the expansion’s environmental impacts. The groups say a provincial environmental assessment, which recently started, won’t properly assess local impacts or impacts downstream in Montana and Idaho.

Dan Cheater, a lawyer at Ecojustice, said:

“If Minister Wilkinson is serious about addressing the climate crisis and protecting the environment, he won’t greenlight Teck’s attempt to expand B.C.’s largest coal mine without first conducting a full impact assessment of the project.

“Teck’s open-pit coal mines in the Elk Valley are a significant source of selenium pollution, which devastates fish populations and remains in waterways for thousands of years. The province continues to permit this pollution and the federal government has not yet stepped in.

“Furthermore, the metallurgical coal from Teck’s Elk Valley mines will cause significant carbon emissions.”

 Lars Sander-Green, Mining Coordinator at Wildsight, said:

“Coal mining in the Elk Valley is an environmental disaster. If a coal mine expansion that will literally take apart a mountain and send hundreds of railcars of coal overseas every day for decades isn’t big enough for a federal environmental assessment in Canada, then something has gone very wrong.”

“B.C.’s environmental assessment process already greenlit three massive coal mine expansions in the Elk Valley, ignoring a growing water pollution crisis. This time around, we need a federal environmental assessment to protect our fish.”

About

Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, innovative public interest lawsuits lead to legal precedents that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.

Wildsight works locally, regionally and globally to protect biodiversity and encourage sustainable communities in Canada’s Columbia and Rocky Mountain regions. They’ve been working for decades to defend clean water and wildlife in the Elk Valley and BC’s southern Rocky Mountains.

For media inquiries

Please contact Emily Chan, communications specialist at Ecojustice, at echan@ecojustice.ca or 1-800-926-7744 ext. 277

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