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Cleaning up water pollution linked to the Teck mining could be very expensive ;s expensive

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The Teck Resources coal processing plant, near Sparwood, British Columbia . (Archive photo)

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A report commissioned by the Environmental organization Wildsight is considering a $6.4 billion bill to address water pollution in southeastern British Columbia's Elk Valley from coal mining that releases selenium.

That's a much higher figure than expected to clean up Canadian and U.S. waterways polluted by the open coal mine operated by Teck, which provides a $1.9 billion remediation guarantee fund.

The guarantee fund is a bond paid to the province upstream by mining companies to cover potential damage and restoration costs in the event of emergency.

It is designed to ensure that the financial burden associated with remediation costs falls on industry rather than taxpayers.

Having previously pleaded guilty to charges of dumping selenium and calcite into rivers, totaling more than $60 million in fines, the company outlined a plan to clean up the Elk Valley that involves building six water treatment by 2027 and operate for 60 years.

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Despite this, according to the report commissioned by Wildsight and carried out by the independent consultancy firm Burgess Environmental Ltd, the cost of rehabilitation would instead cost $6.4 billion, or $4.5 billion more than the fund guarantee paid by the company.

Teck seriously underestimated the problem and British Columbia taxpayers face a multibillion-dollar bill if something goes wrong, says Simon Wiebe, mining policy researcher at Wildsight.

The report clearly shows that the amount held by the province is not enough and that this situation must be remedied.

A quote from Simon Wiebe, mining policy researcher at Wildsight

The researcher would like more transparency in the calculation of the amount requested from companies and more significant sums .

Teck, for its part, asserts, in a written press release, that the conclusions of the Wildsight study are erroneous and incompatible with the calculations made as part of the provincial government's policy.

The company claims, for example, that [Wildsight's] use of simplified assumptions overestimates the operating costs of water treatment plants by 50 to 60%.

The company also says it is committed to meeting all reclamation obligations at no cost to the government or taxpayers .

According to Sonia Furstenau, the leader of the Green Party of British Columbia, it's a story that repeats itself again and again.

It is not new according to her that a government is responsible for paying for and cleaning up a company's mistakes. She shares Wildsight's opinion to increase financial guarantees and asks for more supervision.

Sonia Furstenau also has concerns about the sale of Teck's coal assets to Glencore, a Swiss multinational.

I am always afraid of large multinationals, because we still see today examples of companies that leave us pollution once their mining operations are finished.

A quote from Sonia Fursteneau, leader of the Green Party of British Columbia

Wildsight fears that with the arrival of a new company, which has not given the same guarantees of environmental protection as Teck, responsibility for the selenium crisis is not assumed during the transfer.

After discussions stalled for several years between Canada and the United States, the two countries agreed last week to launch a joint investigation into pollution from coal mines operated by the company Teck and flowing into American waters.

With information from Dominique Levesque

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