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Line Creek coal mine threatens Elk River and Lake Koocanusa

The Globe and Mail reports on the threat to Elk River and Lake Koocanusa by the massive new $3.4 billion Teck Coal Ltd. ‘Line Creek’ coal mine in British Columbia.

It reports that the BC government issued the company an environmental certificate this past fall, but background documents now show that the province knows the new mine will pollute without knowing if the company’s water-treatment plant will work.

If the coal mine pollutes the river, irreparable harm will be done and the province will have run afoul of an international treaty. “Under the Boundary Waters Treaty, signed in 1909, Canada and the U.S. agreed that shared waters can’t be polluted on either side of the border, to cause injury on the other side.”

The article highlights, “The big fear with Teck’s new Line Creek mine, which will produce 637 million cubic metres of waste rock, is that it could release enough selenium to push aquatic life over the edge. That would not only be an environmental disaster for B.C., where the Elk is treasured as one of the world’s best trout-fishing rivers, but it could trigger an international showdown, perhaps with the U.S. invoking the Boundary Waters Treaty to force the closing of a Canadian mine.”

Last February, the Vancouver Sun reported, “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made a veiled threat to take Canada to the International Joint Commission in a dispute over plans to expand coal production in the Elk River Valley of southeastern B.C., near the Montana border. The threat was made in a letter that outlines concerns about the potential for pollution running down B.C.’s Elk and Fording rivers into two bodies of water shared by B.C. and Montana – Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenay (Kootenai) River.”

British Columbia has ten active coal mines and another twenty in development. We have also noted that to speed this development, Premier Christy Clark has committed $24-million to reduce ‘regulatory delays’ for new mines.

On October 31 in Alberta a dike failed at Sherritt International Corp.’s Obed Mountain coal mine water storage pond releasing 670,000 cubic metres of water – and noxious chemicals, metals, clay, mud, shale and coal particles – into the Apetowun and Plante creeks that flow into the Athabasca River. This created a murky plume in the Athabasca River that has flowed past Hinton, Whitecourt, Athabasca, Smith and the Alexis Nakota Sioux and Alexander First Nations. All downstream were told not to drink the water. The head of the plume is now reportedly within 175 kilometres of Fort McMurray.

Further reading

Council of Canadians speaks against coal mines
US raises concerns about BC coal mines polluting the Kootenai-Koocanusa watersheds
Council of Canadians-Wildnerness Committee joint statement against increased coal exports from West Coast
Carbon emissions from increased coal exports in BC would top Northern Gateway pipeline
Oliver to ‘streamline’ the approval process for mines in Canada
Premier Clark’s mining plans threaten BC’s lakes and rivers