The British Columbia government has fined Teck Coal Limited more than $16 million for exceeding pollution thresholds as well as failing to build an active water treatment facility on time at one of its operations in southeastern B.C.
The province's natural resources compliance and enforcement database shows three fines were issued at the end of January, including one penalty of nearly $15.5 million as a result of the company's failure to get its Fording River south water treatment facility operational by the December 2018 deadline in its permit.
The decision document from the B.C. Environment Ministry says the contravention at Teck's mine outside Elkford was "major."
It says the company's actions significantly interfered with the ministry's capacity to protect and conserve the natural environment and undermined the integrity of the regulatory regime.
A statement from Teck Coal, a subsidiary of Teck Resources Limited, says the Fording River water treatment facility is now operating and "achieving near-complete removal of selenium from treated water."
While rarely harmful to humans, selenium can damage fish populations by lowering their reproductive success.
Teck says the delay in the completion of the facility was "necessary to implement a fix for a water treatment challenge" and the COVID-19 pandemic also affected construction.
The other two fines totalling nearly $1.1 million were issued in response to exceedances of selenium and nitrate at Teck operations near Sparwood, B.C., between 2019 and 2021.
The Jan. 31 fines are the latest in a string of penalties imposed on Teck Coal in B.C. The largest came in the spring of 2021 when a judge ordered the company to pay $60 million after it pleaded guilty to contaminating waterways in the region.
The company's statement on Wednesday said it has invested $1.2 billion so far in water quality and it plans to invest a further $750 million over the next two years.
It says Teck is committed to making progress on its Elk Valley water quality plan "to stabilize and improve water quality in the watershed."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.
The Canadian Press