New measures have been issued to Teck Coal Limited, setting out actions to help improve water quality in the Elk Valley.

The new Direction was given to the company by Environment and Climate Change Canada for waters impacted by the Fording River and Greenhills operations.

Teck said the measures in the Direction are complementary to measures already included in its Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (EVWQP).

The company does not have to build any additional water treatment facilities beyond those already considered in the EVWQP, however, it does set out requirements regarding water management, such as diversions, mine planning, fish monitoring and calcite prevention measures. As well, Teck must have a 200-hectare geosynthetic cover trial in the Greenhills creek drainage installed by the end of 2030.

Geo-synthetic covers are used to stabilize terrain or contain soil or debris over a large area, such as lining and capping off landfills.

Teck said a geosynthetic cover over waste rock has the greatest technical potential as a source control measure at the headwaters of Greenhills Creek. If the trial is successful, Teck added that it may use geosynthetic covers in a few other specific settings in the Elk Valley to supplement other control measures it is currently developing.

New guidelines given under the Direction will require substantial investment from the company, beyond what it anticipated for its EVWQP.

“The aggregate cost of those incremental measures, over an approximate 10-year period, is preliminarily estimated at approximately $350 to 400 million, with expected spending in 2021 of approximately $17 million,” said Teck. “This cost estimate is based on limited engineering, and the feasibility of certain measures has not yet been confirmed.”

The final cost of the new measures and work under the EVWQP is unknown for the time being, as many factors could play into the cost going up or down by the time they are implemented.

It added that environmental monitoring results may dictate that certain measures do not need to be fully implemented, or show the need for other measures.

According to Teck, the issuance of the Direction is unrelated to potential charges under the Fisheries Act, as discussions regarding those charges continue.

The Elkview Phase 2 Saturated Rock Fill and Fording River South Active Water Treatment Facility are set to become active in the fourth quarter of 2020 and first quarter of 2021, respectively.

“When operating at full capacity these two facilities will bring total water treatment capacity up to 47.5 million liters per day from the current capacity of 7.5 million litres per day, materially reducing selenium and nitrate loading in the Elk Valley watershed,” said Teck. “Teck continues to invest in innovative technical solutions to address water quality issues and construction of additional treatment capacity. As well, further studies to better understand water quality, source control and treatment options are scheduled for 2021 and beyond.”