Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

Canada and United States to investigate water pollution linked to Teck mining

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A team of hydrologists from the United States Geological Survey collects samples from the Kootenai River in Montana. (Archive photo)

The Canadian Press

The United States and Canada have agreed to launch a joint investigation into a long-running cross-border dispute over pollution flowing into U.S. waters from British Columbia coal mines operated by Teck.

Our two countries are committed to a collaborative, action-oriented, science and indigenous knowledge-based path, wrote in a statement jointly, the United States Ambassador to Canada, David Cohen, and his Canadian counterpart, Kirsten Hillman.

The agreement, announced Monday, involves the two national governments, as well as British Columbia, the states of Montana and Idaho, as well as six indigenous communities on both sides of the border.

They will work under the auspices of the International Joint Commission, a treaty-based group that arbitrates water-related disputes.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">The agreement creates a governance body and research committee tasked with finding ways to reduce contamination from coal mines in British Columbia's Elk Valley, which drains into Koocanusa Lake , a reservoir straddling the border, and in American rivers.

This governance body must be operational by the end of June, with the final research report expected two years later.

The problem has been going on for a decade, said Kathryn Teneese, chair of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, which represents Canada's four First Nations that live along those waters.

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Kathryn Teneese, president of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, welcomes the opening of the investigation, even if she would have liked it to this takes place earlier. (File photo)

It took a while, she commented. It's a good start. This is just the beginning of a long and aggressive process.

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Decades of open-pit mining in the south eastern British Columbia exposed selenium, an element toxic to fish associated with coal deposits. This selenium flows downstream.

A recent study by the US Geological Survey confirms that the contamination comes from these mines. The study adds that efforts by mine owner Teck Resources to slow these releases are not making much difference to the amount flowing south.

The report estimates that in 1985, just under two tons of selenium flowed from the Elk River to Lake Koocanusa. Last year, this figure had increased to almost 11 tonnes.

Teck has installed a $1.4 billion water treatment system at the mine and is structuring new operations to capture at least 95% of the selenium from current operations. Montana government data shows selenium concentrations in Lake Koocanusa water have been stable since at least 2012.

But the report indicates that selenium continues to be washed downstream, particularly during periods of high flow.

U.S. officials, including senators, the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, have been lobbying for years for a joint investigation between the United States and Canada into the situation. US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had promised to act by last summer.

L& #x27;Stalemate may have been broken last August, when British Columbia finally accepted a role on the International Joint Commission.

Teck, which is in the process of selling its coal assets to the Swiss multinational Glencore, is not represented on the governance board. The company will be able to submit information to the committee, according to senior US administration officials.

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