Environment Minister Mary Polak and Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett have issued an environmental assessment certificate to Teck Coal Ltd. for the Fording River Operations Swift project, which is located 20 kilometres northeast of Elkford.
The decision was made after considering a review led by British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office. The decision also considered the requirements of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan approved by the Minister of Environment in November 2014. The ministers have issued the certificate with legally enforceable conditions that have given them the confidence to conclude that the project will be constructed, operated and decommissioned in a way that ensures that no significant adverse effects are likely to occur. A record of the factors that the ministers considered in making their decision can be found in the Reasons for Ministers’ Decision at: http://tinyurl.com/qh8ylqe
There are 19 conditions that are part of the environmental assessment certificate. Design requirements are specified in the certified project description. Each of the conditions and the certified project description are legally binding requirements that Teck must meet to be in compliance with the certificate.
The certificate conditions were developed following consultation and input from the Ktunaxa Nation Council, government agencies, communities and the public. Key conditions for the project require Teck to:
- Hire an independent environmental monitor to audit whether Teck is complying with the conditions in the environmental assessment certificate;
- Construct and operate water treatment plants at Fording River Operations in accordance with the timeframe and specifications set out in the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan;
- Develop management plans to monitor and mitigate effects on wildlife, fish and fish habitat, air quality and noise, public access, and water, as well as effects from invasive plants;
- Develop and implement a plan that will address the recommendations of the Westslope Cutthroat Trout population study in the upper Fording River (when that study is completed early in 2016);
- Establish an advisory group to provide scientific, technical and Aboriginal advice on strategies to evaluate and reduce impacts on biodiversity from this and other projects operated by Teck in the Elk Valley; and
- Collaborate with the Ktunaxa Nation to ensure protection of Ktunaxa’s cultural and heritage values, obtain input regarding ecological values, and support Ktunaxa’s participation in economic opportunities associated with the project.
The Swift project will require various federal, provincial and local government permits to proceed. The Environmental Assessment Office will co-ordinate compliance management efforts with other government agencies to ensure that the office is satisfied that certificate conditions are met throughout the life of the project.
With an initial construction cost of $88.5 million and an operating cost of approximately $16.9 billion, the Swift project is an extension of the currently operating Fording River Operations coal mine. The project, which will use existing mine facilities, will produce 170 million tonnes of coal over 25 years. Teck expects to maintain the approximately 1,000 full-time-equivalent employees at the existing Fording River Operations, with an additional 300 to 500 full-time jobs during construction.
British Columbia’s environmental assessment process offers significant opportunities for Aboriginal groups, government agencies and the public to influence the outcome of environmental assessments by providing input on the potential for environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects from a proposed project.