Teck proposed expansions

Teck Coal Ltd. wants to expand two of its Elk Valley mines.

Lucy Eykamp, Teck’s social, environmental and regulatory approvals manager, outlined details of Teck’s plans to expand the lifespans of its Coal Mountain Operations (CMO) and Elkview Operations (EVO) to Regional District of East Kootanay board directors Feb. 14.

If approved, the proposed expansions would expand the lifespan of the two coal mines, located near Sparwood.

The proposed Elkview Mine expansion (called Baldy Ridge Expansion/BRE) would allow Teck to maintain its existing workforce at the mine and extend the life of the mine to 2047.

The expansion would occur mostly within the current boundaries of Elkview Mine (pictured above), located at Sparwood.

“Of the 1,680 ha of incremental surface area disturbance caused by BRE, 619 ha would be outside EVO’s current permit boundary. An additional minimum of 47 ha would also be required for the development of water treatment facilities. Existing permitted mining areas at EVO could sustain operations until 2024 with a decline in production after 2019,” Eykamp reported.

The project would encompass mining coal reserves in Baldy Ridge, Adit Ridge and an extension to an existing pit on Natal Ridge,” she said.

Noting that the proposal does not trigger a B.C. Environmental Assessment Act review, Eykamp said Teck has requested the project be reviewed by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) due to its scale and to “provide transparency for affected stakeholders.”

The company will be submitting its case for an Environmental Assessment Certificate Application in April 2015, following a series of public information sessions, some already having been undertaken.

CoalMtnThe Coal Mountain Operations Phase 2 (CMO2) is considered an expansion, though it would be a new “greenfield mine project that will extend the life of Coal Mountain Operations,” Eykamp said. “The project will be on fee simple land owned by Teck, approximately 15 km south of Sparwood and five km east of Hosmer. The new pits will be in the area of Wheeler Ridge and Marten Ridge,” she explained.

The current life expectancy of the mine is about 30 years, Eykamp stated.

“Production of local reserves at CMO will slow in 2016 – 2017 while CMO2 ramps up in order to allow for the continuation of employment of the experienced workforce and contracting opportunities. This project triggers the Reviewable Projects Regulations and will likely proceed as an Environmental Assessment in both provincial and federal regulatory agencies. The team has been gathering baseline data since spring 2012 and recently held several community information sessions. Teck expects to submit a draft project description to the EAO and Canadian Environment Assessment Agency” in the first quarter of 2014.

Eykamp also noted that anticipated submission dates for project applications will be “subsequent to the submission of the Elk River Water Quality Plan (expected in July this year) and will be required to meets its water management standards. Both projects are doing detailed water studies.”

Teck is hoping to receive permits by 2016, which will allow “both mines to continue mining. Both projects are very important to Teck,” Eykamp told the board.

The quality of coal expected to come from CMO2 will be better than the current operation but not as good as that mined from Elkview.

The only concern expressed by regional directors about the proposed expansions was traffic.

Eykamp said the CMO2 expansion, considered an expansion because existing infrastructure will continue to be used, will not intrude on Highway 3, with existing backroads being used.

Traffic from shift changes at the mines was also mentioned by directors.

“It’s amazing how much traffic is on that highway” at shift changes, said Electoral Area B director Heath Slee. “I have concerns as a traveler. It’s like driving on the (Deerfoot) Trail.”

Eykamp noted that Teck employees have also raised that concern and “Teck is very aware of it. It is something we need to deal with the unions.”

Slee also queried her about where the 300 new employees will come from, noting labour shortages.

“That’s a very good question. I couldn’t answer it right now. Labour shortages are a problem everywhere,” she said, adding the company will also be experiencing a lot of retirements in the next few years.

The company is currently working with College of the Rockies and Lethbridge College to produce more skilled workers.

RDEK board chair, Electoral Area C director Rob Gay closed the presentation by stating, “We look forward to approximately another 30 to 35 years of mining.”