Shortly following the approval of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (EVWQP) by the BC government, several new mine proposals and mine expansions have reared their heads in the Elk Valley. It remains unclear how the objectives of reduced water contaminants in the Elk River can be reached in the presence of new mines. The EVWQP was drafted by Teck and only takes into consideration Teck’s mining plans. It doesn’t allow for any additional contaminants from other non-Teck mines. This means that any new mine would have to have absolutely zero impact on water quality. Can this be achieved?
The proposition of new mines in the already stressed Elk Valley raises many questions. How can a mine promise that they would have zero impact on water quality? What would the impacts be to wildlife habitat and corridors? recreational and hunting access? cumulative effects? socioeconomic impacts to our communities?
And to top it all off, two rock quarries have also been proposed in the Alexander Creek drainage and a new forestry company plans to increase the cut rate on their recently acquired private forest lands by up to 800%.
How can this much industrial resource extraction be entertained in one watershed? The answer is the grossly unbalanced Southern Rocky Mountain Management plan (SRMMP) that guides land use in this region. It not only says that all of the land in BC's Southern Rockies is open to mineral exploration, it further states that mining is valued more than anything else.
Management intent and objectives for other resource values in the SRMMP (including, but not limited to, old-growth, connectivity, ungulate winter range, riparian, visual landscapes and recreation) will not preclude application for, or approval of, mining activities anywhere in the lands referred to in Objective 3.1.1
To summarize the proposals and expansions:
Active New Mine Proposals
The Loop Ridge proposal by CanAus in Michel Creek near Highway 3 and the Corbin Road
Crown Mountain proposal in upper Alexander Creek.
Planned Mine Expansions
There are four planned mine expansions at existing Teck operations: Fording River, Line Creek, Greenhills and Elkview
Upcoming Mine Proposals/Exploration Projects
Centermount/Bingay North of Elkford
Crowsnest Pass Coal Mining/ Coal Creek
CanAus/ Tent Mountain / Michel Head
Click the photo on the right for a larger view.
With an additional two new rock quarries in the Elk Valley and one in the Flathead River Valley.
It's not difficult to see that this land use plan is highly unbalanced.