Wildsight supports the B.C. government’s move to impose over $16.5-million in penalties after Teck violated environmental protection laws.
The company was slapped with the biggest fine for being late on its agreement to have the Fording River south water treatment facility up and running by Dec. 31, 2018.
Other administrative penalties were doled out for the mining operations going over the limit of selenium and nitrate effluent on multiple occasions.
Wildsight’s mining policy and impacts researcher Wyatt Petryshen said the fines represent a positive step.
“It’s good to see the government has taken enforcement compliance a little bit more seriously, especially as that contrasts past government’s approach to mining compliance in British Columbia,” said Petryshen.
Wildsight officials said selenium concentrations have been steadily rising in the Elk Valley since they were first found in 1995.
The environmental group notes that selenium, along with other contaminants, has caused significant damage to ecosystems in the Elk Valley and transboundary Kootenay watershed.
He said a lack of compliance and follow-up from government regulators in the past has further exacerbated the issue.
“The auditor general’s report from 2016 looking at mining compliance in B.C. noted that one of the main reasons we’ve seen such a deterioration of water quality in the Elk Valley had been negligence from the regulator to actually regulate,” said Petryshen. “Seeing this change of tone in which we are seeing some relatively stiff fines compared to past fines is very welcomed.”
He said this the lack of regulatory oversight and action allowed the Elk Valley’s water quality to decline.
“The continued exceedances highlight the importance of having effective compliance and enforcement but also highlights how the Elk Valley water quality plan has failed to resolve the selenium and nitrate problem that has been known for over two decades,” explained Petryshen.
While the fine equates to about 0.9 per cent of Teck’s third-quarter gross profit of $1.881-billion in 2022, Petryshen said the public awareness is just as important.
“We have a large corporation that has typically been seen as fairly good in the valley and that they take environmental concerns seriously, and now they are receiving these huge fines,” said Petryshen.
“No other companies in B.C. are receiving fines of this magnitude, so you have to ask ‘what are they doing and what aren’t they doing to solve this and why is it getting worse?'”
This comes after the federal and provincial governments issued a $2.2-million penalty on Teck on Jan. 10 for spilling acid from its Trail operation into the Columbia River.
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