Environmental Assessment & Management

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The environmental assessment for the Castle Project is a coordinated process between the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office (BC EAO) and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC). The environmental assessment process provides a thorough evaluation of the potential effects and benefits that may occur over the life of a proposed project, including, environmental, economic, social, cultural, and health effects.

Explore the topics below to learn more about the environmental assessment process, the environment around the Castle Project, and some of the things Teck is doing to manage environmental impacts throughout the Elk Valley.

The environmental assessment for the Castle Project is a coordinated process between the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office (BC EAO) and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC). The environmental assessment process provides a thorough evaluation of the potential effects and benefits that may occur over the life of a proposed project, including, environmental, economic, social, cultural, and health effects.

Explore the topics below to learn more about the environmental assessment process, the environment around the Castle Project, and some of the things Teck is doing to manage environmental impacts throughout the Elk Valley.

  • Existing Environment

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    15 Jun 2020

    Stretching 200 km through the East Kootenays, the Elk Valley is at the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The economy and local livelihoods are closely tied to the region’s environment and natural resources, including strong tourism, outdoor recreation, and natural resource development sectors.

    The Castle Project would be located immediately adjacent to Teck’s Fording River Operations, and is within the range of noise and air emissions from the existing mining activities. Streams and creeks in the area flow towards the Fording River. Working with Indigenous Peoples and other partners, Teck has made significant progress towards achieving the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (EVWQP), a long-term approach to address the management of selenium and other substances released by mining activities in the Elk Valley. Our goal is to stabilize and reverse the trend of selenium and other substances to ensure the ongoing health of the watershed, while at the same time allowing for continued sustainable mining in the region

    The Castle Project is located upstream of Josephine Falls, which prevents fish from moving upstream from lower reaches of the Fording River. Westslope cutthroat trout are the only known fish species upstream of Josephine Falls. Teck is working on regional initiatives to protect and support this important fish population in the upper Fording River, and we recognize that Chauncey Creek is regionally important tributary habitat.

    Vegetation in the area includes spruce and fir trees, grasslands, and Whitebark pine. The region is rich in wildlife, home to one of North America’s largest bighorn sheep populations as well as abundant mountain goat, elk, bear, cougars, eagles, and many kinds of songbirds. Past forestry and mining activities—as well as urban and rural development, hunting, and regional infrastructure—have all affected the presence and distribution of wildlife species over time.

    Stretching 200 km through the East Kootenays, the Elk Valley is at the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The economy and local livelihoods are closely tied to the region’s environment and natural resources, including strong tourism, outdoor recreation, and natural resource development sectors.

    The Castle Project would be located immediately adjacent to Teck’s Fording River Operations, and is within the range of noise and air emissions from the existing mining activities. Streams and creeks in the area flow towards the Fording River. Working with Indigenous Peoples and other partners, Teck has made significant progress towards achieving the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (EVWQP), a long-term approach to address the management of selenium and other substances released by mining activities in the Elk Valley. Our goal is to stabilize and reverse the trend of selenium and other substances to ensure the ongoing health of the watershed, while at the same time allowing for continued sustainable mining in the region

    The Castle Project is located upstream of Josephine Falls, which prevents fish from moving upstream from lower reaches of the Fording River. Westslope cutthroat trout are the only known fish species upstream of Josephine Falls. Teck is working on regional initiatives to protect and support this important fish population in the upper Fording River, and we recognize that Chauncey Creek is regionally important tributary habitat.

    Vegetation in the area includes spruce and fir trees, grasslands, and Whitebark pine. The region is rich in wildlife, home to one of North America’s largest bighorn sheep populations as well as abundant mountain goat, elk, bear, cougars, eagles, and many kinds of songbirds. Past forestry and mining activities—as well as urban and rural development, hunting, and regional infrastructure—have all affected the presence and distribution of wildlife species over time.

  • Environmental Assessment

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    15 Jun 2020

    Provincial Regulatory Review

    In April 2020, Teck submitted the initial project description and early engagement plan for the Castle Project to the EAO. The initial project description includes a conceptual footprint for the Project. This footprint does not represent the actual design nor the final plan for the Project. These details will be determined over the coming months, and will be informed by input received during this early engagement phase.

    By submitting the initial project description and early engagement plan, Teck has initiated the early engagement phase of the environmental assessment process. During this time, there is an opportunity for communities, Indigenous nations, government agencies, and others to learn about the Project, engage directly with Teck and the EAO, and help identify potential interests and concerns early on. This step sets an important foundation for the development of the Castle Project. Feedback received will be considered in the next stages of planning, leading to a more robust and informed Project design.

    The EAO's website provides more information about the provincial environmental assessment process.


    Federal Regulatory Review

    Teck has also engaged the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada about the Project to determine the requirements for a federal review process.

    On August 19, 2020, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada announced the decision to designate the Castle Project for review under the Impact Assessment Act. Based on this decision, the Castle Project will be subject to federal review that will focus on areas of federal interest in addition to the provincial environmental assessment process currently underway. The Castle Project will work with the EAO and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to ensure a coordinated review.


    Provincial Regulatory Review

    In April 2020, Teck submitted the initial project description and early engagement plan for the Castle Project to the EAO. The initial project description includes a conceptual footprint for the Project. This footprint does not represent the actual design nor the final plan for the Project. These details will be determined over the coming months, and will be informed by input received during this early engagement phase.

    By submitting the initial project description and early engagement plan, Teck has initiated the early engagement phase of the environmental assessment process. During this time, there is an opportunity for communities, Indigenous nations, government agencies, and others to learn about the Project, engage directly with Teck and the EAO, and help identify potential interests and concerns early on. This step sets an important foundation for the development of the Castle Project. Feedback received will be considered in the next stages of planning, leading to a more robust and informed Project design.

    The EAO's website provides more information about the provincial environmental assessment process.


    Federal Regulatory Review

    Teck has also engaged the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada about the Project to determine the requirements for a federal review process.

    On August 19, 2020, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada announced the decision to designate the Castle Project for review under the Impact Assessment Act. Based on this decision, the Castle Project will be subject to federal review that will focus on areas of federal interest in addition to the provincial environmental assessment process currently underway. The Castle Project will work with the EAO and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to ensure a coordinated review.


  • Baseline Studies for the Castle Project

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    15 Jun 2020

    As the Castle Project prepares for an environmental assessment, it is important to have a strong understanding of the current state of the environment. Baseline study programs for the Project began in 2018 and will continue through 2020. These studies build on many years of knowledge from Fording River Operations. With input from communities and Indigenous Knowledge, these programs provide an informed basis for the prediction of environmental effects, and also provides a reference to monitor future changes.

    Further detail about baseline studies and potential environmental and social effects of the Castle Project will be the subject of future engagement under the B.C. environmental assessment process.


    As the Castle Project prepares for an environmental assessment, it is important to have a strong understanding of the current state of the environment. Baseline study programs for the Project began in 2018 and will continue through 2020. These studies build on many years of knowledge from Fording River Operations. With input from communities and Indigenous Knowledge, these programs provide an informed basis for the prediction of environmental effects, and also provides a reference to monitor future changes.

    Further detail about baseline studies and potential environmental and social effects of the Castle Project will be the subject of future engagement under the B.C. environmental assessment process.


  • Regional Considerations

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    15 Jun 2020

    Mining is the backbone of the Elk Valley economy and, through its five steelmaking coal operations, Teck is the major employer in the area. Over the past century, mining, forestry, agriculture and other activities have had an effect on the environment. Teck is committed to working to address regional environmental issues and we are adapting our practices to reduce the effects of current and future mining. Planning and design of the Castle Project will also consider these challenges and work to minimize environmental effects. These efforts will also be aligned with regional initiatives involving Indigenous Peoples and other partners.


    Water Quality

    Teck has made significant progress towards achieving the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. This Plan aims to stabilize and reduce selenium and nitrate levels in the watershed.

    To address water quality challenges, we are:

    • Using new, innovative liners to prevent nitrate from explosives from coming in contact with water. This first-of-its kind technology developed by Teck is predicted to reduce release of nitrate by more than 90%.
    • Treating up to 10 million litres of mine-affected water per day at our Elkview Operations using our first Saturated Rock Fill facility. This treatment is achieving near-complete removal of selenium and nitrate and we are seeing downstream reductions in selenium concentrations.
    • Treating up to 7.5 million litres of water per day at our first water treatment facility at Line Creek Operations. This is the first in a series of facilities that will reduce downstream selenium concentrations.
    • Expanding our water treatment capacity including new and expanded facilities at Fording River and Elkview operations. By 2021, we expect to have capacity to treat up to 47.5 million litres per day and expect further significant reductions of selenium and nitrate concentrations downstream.


    High Elevation Grasslands

    These grasslands are an important ecosystem in B.C., and may be affected by the mine footprint.

    To protect and restore high elevation grasslands, we are:

    • Including Teck’s High Elevation Grasslands Management Plan in the design considerations for the Project.
    • Continuing research and reclamation work that restores high-elevation grasslands.
    • Proposing to offset loss of these habitats, where needed.


    Whitebark Pine

    Whitebark pine trees in the region are rare and under stress due to disease and other factors. Mine development may affect Whitebark pine habitat.

    To support regional Whitebark pine habitat, we are:

    • Including the Whitebark Pine Management Plan in the design considerations for the Project.
    • Supporting research into Whitebark pine habitat.
    • Gathering disease-resistant seeds and planting new Whitebark pine trees in reclaimed mining areas.


    Terrestrial Habitat

    Regional development over the years has led to a cumulative loss of habitat for wildlife including grizzly bear and bighorn sheep.

    To protect wildlife habitat we are:

    • Investing in research on habitat restoration and reclamation.
    • Considering how adjustments to mine design and reclamation planning can avoid or reduce habitat effects.
    • Considering how impacts may be offset or enhanced in other areas.
    • Advancing operational and planning efforts to avoid or minimize impacts.


    Westslope Cutthroat Trout

    Westslope cutthroat trout is an isolated, genetically pure fish population upstream of Josephine Falls which is listed as a Species of Special Concern federally and is blue-listed in B.C. Fish monitoring data in 2019 showed a decline in fish counts compared to 2017.

    To investigate and address changes to fish populations, we are:

    • Evaluating possible causes for the decline. Teck has established a team of 18 external experts to consider the issue and deliver a report later this year. This team is working with the Ktunaxa Nation Council, government regulators, the Environmental Monitoring Committee, and the Elk Valley Fish and Fish Habitat committee to gather more information, evaluate possible causes, and address ongoing protection of fish.
    • Taking precautionary measures to limit handling and sampling of fish, and to limit water use at our operations during low-flow periods.
    • Continuing our commitment to support the Province and work collaboratively with Ktunaxa Nation Council to develop fish recovery strategies.
    • Additional and ongoing monitoring of the westslope cutthroat trout population (monitoring began in 2012).
    • Including westslope cutthroat trout as a key consideration in Project design and planning.

    Mining is the backbone of the Elk Valley economy and, through its five steelmaking coal operations, Teck is the major employer in the area. Over the past century, mining, forestry, agriculture and other activities have had an effect on the environment. Teck is committed to working to address regional environmental issues and we are adapting our practices to reduce the effects of current and future mining. Planning and design of the Castle Project will also consider these challenges and work to minimize environmental effects. These efforts will also be aligned with regional initiatives involving Indigenous Peoples and other partners.


    Water Quality

    Teck has made significant progress towards achieving the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. This Plan aims to stabilize and reduce selenium and nitrate levels in the watershed.

    To address water quality challenges, we are:

    • Using new, innovative liners to prevent nitrate from explosives from coming in contact with water. This first-of-its kind technology developed by Teck is predicted to reduce release of nitrate by more than 90%.
    • Treating up to 10 million litres of mine-affected water per day at our Elkview Operations using our first Saturated Rock Fill facility. This treatment is achieving near-complete removal of selenium and nitrate and we are seeing downstream reductions in selenium concentrations.
    • Treating up to 7.5 million litres of water per day at our first water treatment facility at Line Creek Operations. This is the first in a series of facilities that will reduce downstream selenium concentrations.
    • Expanding our water treatment capacity including new and expanded facilities at Fording River and Elkview operations. By 2021, we expect to have capacity to treat up to 47.5 million litres per day and expect further significant reductions of selenium and nitrate concentrations downstream.


    High Elevation Grasslands

    These grasslands are an important ecosystem in B.C., and may be affected by the mine footprint.

    To protect and restore high elevation grasslands, we are:

    • Including Teck’s High Elevation Grasslands Management Plan in the design considerations for the Project.
    • Continuing research and reclamation work that restores high-elevation grasslands.
    • Proposing to offset loss of these habitats, where needed.


    Whitebark Pine

    Whitebark pine trees in the region are rare and under stress due to disease and other factors. Mine development may affect Whitebark pine habitat.

    To support regional Whitebark pine habitat, we are:

    • Including the Whitebark Pine Management Plan in the design considerations for the Project.
    • Supporting research into Whitebark pine habitat.
    • Gathering disease-resistant seeds and planting new Whitebark pine trees in reclaimed mining areas.


    Terrestrial Habitat

    Regional development over the years has led to a cumulative loss of habitat for wildlife including grizzly bear and bighorn sheep.

    To protect wildlife habitat we are:

    • Investing in research on habitat restoration and reclamation.
    • Considering how adjustments to mine design and reclamation planning can avoid or reduce habitat effects.
    • Considering how impacts may be offset or enhanced in other areas.
    • Advancing operational and planning efforts to avoid or minimize impacts.


    Westslope Cutthroat Trout

    Westslope cutthroat trout is an isolated, genetically pure fish population upstream of Josephine Falls which is listed as a Species of Special Concern federally and is blue-listed in B.C. Fish monitoring data in 2019 showed a decline in fish counts compared to 2017.

    To investigate and address changes to fish populations, we are:

    • Evaluating possible causes for the decline. Teck has established a team of 18 external experts to consider the issue and deliver a report later this year. This team is working with the Ktunaxa Nation Council, government regulators, the Environmental Monitoring Committee, and the Elk Valley Fish and Fish Habitat committee to gather more information, evaluate possible causes, and address ongoing protection of fish.
    • Taking precautionary measures to limit handling and sampling of fish, and to limit water use at our operations during low-flow periods.
    • Continuing our commitment to support the Province and work collaboratively with Ktunaxa Nation Council to develop fish recovery strategies.
    • Additional and ongoing monitoring of the westslope cutthroat trout population (monitoring began in 2012).
    • Including westslope cutthroat trout as a key consideration in Project design and planning.

  • Elk Valley Water Quality Plan

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    15 Jun 2020

    Water quality challenges in the Elk Valley are connected to the long history of mining in the region. The mining process generates large quantities of leftover rock that contains naturally-occurring substances such as selenium, an element that is essential for human and animal health in small amounts. Water from both precipitation and runoff flows through these rock piles and carries selenium and other substances, such as nitrate, into the local watershed. If present in high enough concentrations in the watershed, these substances can adversely affect aquatic health.

    Teck has been taking action for years to protect and improve water quality through the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (the Plan). The Plan was developed in cooperation with governments in Canada and the United States, Indigenous groups, communities, independent scientific experts and others, and was approved by the B.C. Government in 2014. The Plan sets water quality targets to protect aquatic and human health. It outlines the water treatment and mitigation measures to achieve those targets and sets out how we’ll monitor water quality.

    Teck is making significant progress towards achieving the objectives in the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan with the successful operation of our first water treatment facilities that are reducing selenium levels downstream and additional facilities coming online in 2021. Our first water treatment facility at Line Creek is successfully treating up to 7.5 million litres of water per day and we are seeing reductions in selenium concentrations downstream of the facility. Our Saturated Rock Fill (SRF) at our Elkview Operations has been successfully operating since January 2018, treating up to 10 million litres per day. By mid-2021, we expect to have capacity to treat 47.5 million litres of water per day, nearly two and a half times today’s treatment capacity, which will achieve further significant reduction of selenium and nitrate downstream. This includes our 20 million litre per day Fording River South water treatment facility that is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2021.


    Success in Innovation

    Our research and development (R&D) program developed leading-edge SRF technology, working with global experts including scientists at Montana State University. Development of SRF technology, which is quicker to implement, will help to speed up implementation of the Plan. The SRF water treatment facility at Teck Elkview Operations has been successfully operating since January 2018, and is achieving near-complete removal of selenium and nitrate in 10 million litres of mine-affected water per day. The SRF water treatment facility uses existing biological processes in place within mined out areas to treat and improve water quality. We are working now to double the treatment capacity of the Elkview SRF to 20 million litres per day.

    Additionally, Teck’s R&D program developed a new, first-if-its-kind technique that uses specially designed liners to prevent nitrate from explosives from coming in contact with water. This innovative development is predicted to reduce release of nitrate by greater than 90%.



    Water quality challenges in the Elk Valley are connected to the long history of mining in the region. The mining process generates large quantities of leftover rock that contains naturally-occurring substances such as selenium, an element that is essential for human and animal health in small amounts. Water from both precipitation and runoff flows through these rock piles and carries selenium and other substances, such as nitrate, into the local watershed. If present in high enough concentrations in the watershed, these substances can adversely affect aquatic health.

    Teck has been taking action for years to protect and improve water quality through the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (the Plan). The Plan was developed in cooperation with governments in Canada and the United States, Indigenous groups, communities, independent scientific experts and others, and was approved by the B.C. Government in 2014. The Plan sets water quality targets to protect aquatic and human health. It outlines the water treatment and mitigation measures to achieve those targets and sets out how we’ll monitor water quality.

    Teck is making significant progress towards achieving the objectives in the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan with the successful operation of our first water treatment facilities that are reducing selenium levels downstream and additional facilities coming online in 2021. Our first water treatment facility at Line Creek is successfully treating up to 7.5 million litres of water per day and we are seeing reductions in selenium concentrations downstream of the facility. Our Saturated Rock Fill (SRF) at our Elkview Operations has been successfully operating since January 2018, treating up to 10 million litres per day. By mid-2021, we expect to have capacity to treat 47.5 million litres of water per day, nearly two and a half times today’s treatment capacity, which will achieve further significant reduction of selenium and nitrate downstream. This includes our 20 million litre per day Fording River South water treatment facility that is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2021.


    Success in Innovation

    Our research and development (R&D) program developed leading-edge SRF technology, working with global experts including scientists at Montana State University. Development of SRF technology, which is quicker to implement, will help to speed up implementation of the Plan. The SRF water treatment facility at Teck Elkview Operations has been successfully operating since January 2018, and is achieving near-complete removal of selenium and nitrate in 10 million litres of mine-affected water per day. The SRF water treatment facility uses existing biological processes in place within mined out areas to treat and improve water quality. We are working now to double the treatment capacity of the Elkview SRF to 20 million litres per day.

    Additionally, Teck’s R&D program developed a new, first-if-its-kind technique that uses specially designed liners to prevent nitrate from explosives from coming in contact with water. This innovative development is predicted to reduce release of nitrate by greater than 90%.