Yay! Feds agree to Assess Teck Coal Mine – healthy and safe people need to come first

Photo & caption from Wildsight

The decision was made on August 19th for Teck’s Castle Mine project to require federal review. Thank you, Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, for your decision, and everyone who asked for a federal assessment of this project! 

This important decision means the Castle Mine project, located in the Elk Valley area near Fernie in southeast B.C., will undergo a federal environmental assessment, in addition to the B.C. environmental assessment it originally required. This is great news for the health and safety of people in communities in Canada and the U.S.

Since COVID-19, it’s become increasingly clear the health and safety of people needs to be a top priority in all decision-making. Minister Wilkinson stated in his decision that the project falls under federal approval because it “may cause adverse direct and cumulative effects… to fish and fish habitat including, water quality, species at risk, and Indigenous peoples.”

Teck Resources, a company with a history of pollution throughout the province that continues, is responsible for ongoing pollution in the Elk Valley from its existing coal mines there. Water testing reports are showing amounts of heavy metals, such as selenium, four to fifty times what is recommended for health and safety. 

Teck described the area of the project as being well below the threshold of requiring a federal assessment. However, Minister Wilkenson considered the increase in production this project would create to be significantly exceeding the threshold. 

Earlier this year Teck pledged that it’s global operations would be carbon neutral by 2050, in an effort to protect human health and have clean air and water, instead of more carbon pollution. This expansion project would increase Teck’s carbon pollution, instead of being part of the change to get to carbon neutral.

The Tribal Councils of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Ktunaxa Nation Council and the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho as well as many non-profit organizations in Canada and the U.S. wrote to Minister Wilkinson in support of a federal review, stating concerns about risks to water health, fish and wildlife, and cultural uses. 

Decisions like this are needed to protect the health and safety of our communities, from pollution and waste in air, water, and the plants and animals we eat, especially in the face of climate change.