Tag Archives: coal mining

Public meetings to discuss Kootenai watershed mining

Kootenai River
Kootenai River

Other than being a cautionary tale of the transboundary effects of coal mining, this item is not directly related to the North Fork. Still, our colleagues to the west in the Kootenai drainage have set up what sounds like some interesting public meetings involving an impressive range of stakeholders . . .

The Kootenai River Network will hold two public meetings in Northwest Montana next week to discuss coal mining operations in British Columbia’s Elk River Valley, and how they could impact Montana water quality.

The Elk River flows for about 220 miles from north to south, beginning at Elk Lake Provincial Park and flowing into the Kootenai River just north of the U.S.–Canada border. Vancouver-based Teck Coal owns five coal mines in its watershed, and environmentalists allege that their pollutants flow downstream to Montana.

Next week’s meetings, which will take place in Kalispell and Eureka with the same content, format, and agenda, will bring together government and industry speakers to discuss these concerns.

Read more . . .

Dave Hadden: Teck hasn’t gotten the job done

Lake Koocanusa
Lake Koocanusa

Dave Hadden’s recent op-ed in the Flathead Beacon is yet another reminder of why we really don’t want open pit coal mining in the transboundary Flathead Drainage . . .

The Beacon’s June 20 story detailing Teck Coal’s selenium pollution of Lake Koocanusa was barely off the presses when the company had responded with a letter to the editor (June 25) denying that its water treatment plant is failing. Either the Beacon got its facts wrong, or Teck’s conveying false facts. Which one has the long nose?

This is what Teck said in its letter to the editor: “The water treatment facility at our Line Creek Operations is operating and successfully achieving design specifications for reducing selenium and nitrate concentrations in treated water.”

This is what Teck’s Director of Environmental Performance said recently: “We [Teck] clearly and fully violated the intent of the facility, but we have met the requirements of the permit.”

Translation (and just as claimed in the Beacon article) Teck’s water treatment plant is releasing less selenium, but a chemical variety of selenium that is up to 200 times more available for absorption by aquatic organisms. This means that the water treatment plant has worsened the selenium pollution problem.

It’s hard to figure why Teck continues to claim it has succeeded when it has failed.

Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked in the 1800s that, “The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it.” Teck hasn’t gotten the job done. It hasn’t cleaned up the Elk River, its pollution continues to flow across the border, it continues to mine coal, and the province of British Columbia has rewarded the company for not succeeding by not revoking permits for four new big mines.

At this point in time Montanans can be assured that we’re the settling pond for Teck’s mining in the Kootenai watershed as a consequence of BC inadequate and broken mine evaluation, permitting, and enforcement process.

Dave Hadden, director
Headwaters Montana

Mine effluent water treatment failure in B.C. raises more downstream concerns

Kootenai River
Kootenai River

Yet another object lesson on why it is so important to protect the transboundary Flathead Watershed . . .

As British Columbia’s downstream neighbor, Montana has long been concerned about mining pollution spilling across the international border and into its world-class watersheds — fears that a growing body of research and evidence confirms are well founded.

Most recently, conservation groups and scientists on both sides of the border have renewed their calls for Teck Resources to halt new coal mines in the Elk River Valley, a step they say gained urgency when an experimental water treatment facility designed to stem the flow of a mining contaminant called selenium was taken offline because it was releasing an even more biologically toxic form of the heavy metal.

The trouble brewing in the Elk River is equally worrisome for Montana, where the upstream waterways of British Columbia flow into two shared bodies of water straddling the international boundary — Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River.

Read more . . .

Environmental groups file lawsuit to preserve moratorium on new coal leases

The Trump administration’s attempt to lift the existing moratorium on new coal leases triggered an immediate lawsuit on behalf of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Sierra Club, and Center for Biological Diversity . . .

Environmental groups that vowed to fight President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back his predecessor’s plans to curb global warming made good on their promises Wednesday, teaming up with an American Indian tribe to ask a federal court to block an order that lifts restrictions on coal sales from federal lands.

The Interior Department last year placed a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands to review the climate change impacts of burning the fuel and whether taxpayers were getting a fair return. But Trump on Tuesday signed a sweeping executive order that included lifting the moratorium, and also initiated a review of former President Barack Obama’s signature plan to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Environmentalists say lifting the moratorium will worsen climate change and allow coal to be sold for unfairly low prices.

Read more . . .

Also read: Zinke orders rollback of coal moratorium, adds royalty review (Missoulian)

Conservation groups ask Canadian government to halt proposed mines in Elk Valley drainage

Conditions in the Elk Valley, a little ways to the west, serve as a reminder of why it is so important to fight extractive industry in the transboundary Flathead watershed. . . .

Last week the Canadian government charged Teck Resources with three environmental violations after 74 fish were killed near the mining company’s treatment facility in British Columbia’s Elk Valley north of Montana, elevating concerns over contaminants entering transboundary waterways.

The fish were found dead in late 2014 and an investigation determined they died from nitrite poisoning and low dissolved oxygen levels in the water. The deaths occurred near one of Teck’s open-pit coal mines and treatment facility.

The charges followed an investigation by the company.

Read more . . .

Arch Coal suspends plans for Otter Creek strip mine

Strip mines are pretty nasty and this was going to be a very big one . . .

Arch Coal suspended its application for a major mine in southeastern Montana on Thursday, two months after the mining giant filed for bankruptcy protection and amid broader struggles for the coal industry that have reversed its once-bright prospects in the state.

The St. Louis-based company cited a weak coal market, a shortage of capital and an uncertain permitting outlook in announcing it was suspending the proposed Otter Creek mine.

The move marks a major blow to longstanding efforts to expand mining in the Powder River Basin along the Montana-Wyoming border, the nation’s largest coal-producing region. Arch had invested at least $159 million to acquire coal leases in the area.

Read more . . .

CSKT urges bi-national involvement as B.C. coal mining pollutants Increase

The upcoming meeting between President Obama and Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is drawing a lot of attention to transboundary environmental issues . . .

On March 10, President Obama will host a state dinner at the White House for newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the first time such an event has occurred for a Canadian leader in nearly two decades.

The historic gathering between the two liberal leaders could signal a watershed moment for the conservation world, which is on high alert as stakeholders attempt to ensure that a suite of transboundary natural resource measures figure prominently on the menu, including a call by Montana’s largest tribal government to address concerns over mining contaminants in the state’s waterways.

On both sides of the border, the growing wish list of environmental measures is unspooling rapidly.

Read more . . .

B.C. coal mining pollutants increase in Montana watershed

In case anyone wonders why it was so important to oppose resource extraction activities in the transboundary Flathead watershed, just take a look at events in the nearby Elk River drainage . . .

With renewed plans to expand coal-mining operations in southeastern British Columbia’s Elk River drainage, located upstream from one of Montana’s world-class transboundary watersheds, researchers and government agencies are intensifying scrutiny on environmental hazards spanning the border.

The concerns center on increasing amounts of coal waste byproducts leaching into the heavily mined Elk River and its many tributaries, which drain into two bodies of water shared by B.C. and Montana – Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River – both of which are showing increased levels of mining contaminants like selenium in the muscle tissue of fish species.

Read more . . .

Canada to exclude Flathead Valley from planned sale of dominion coal blocks

According to our friends north of the border, the Canadian federal government will not be making lands available for coal development within their section of the trans-boundary Flathead River Valley . . .

Flathead Wild, a coalition of conservation groups dedicated to protecting the Flathead Valley in the East Kootenay, welcomes the federal government’s announcement that it will exempt portions of the Dominion Coal Blocks within the Flathead Valley from a planned sale of federal lands. At the same time, the groups remain concerned that inappropriate development of the coal blocks adjacent to the Valley could jeopardize water quality and wildlife populations.

“While details around the planned sale are not yet clear, we are encouraged that the Federal Government has confirmed that portions of the coal blocks overlapping with the Flathead River Watershed will not be included in the sale, and that discussions with the Province are under way to ensure the protection of the entire watershed from development” said John Bergenske, Wildsight.

Read more . . .

Transboundary Flathead still open to coal mining

Just when you think you can put your feet up and relax. The Flathead Campaign reports that the mining ban passed by British Columbia last year protecting the Canadian Flathead from development has a loophole. There are some federal coal blocks technically unaffected by this provincial legislation. The biggest sits right at the headwaters of the whole transboundary Flathead drainage.

Here’s the lead-in. Read the full article for details, including a map of the areas affected . . .

B.C.’s Flathead River Valley is still open to mountain top removal coal mining and coalbed methane development because a federal coal block is not included in a provincial ban on energy and mining development, conservation groups warned today.

“The Flathead is not protected from open pit coal mining after all,” said Wildsight Executive Director John Bergenske. “We’re calling on the federal government to make an immediate public commitment to join the ban on Flathead mining and energy development.”

The B.C. mining ban, legislated one year ago in November 2011, has no legal effect over 6,290 hectares of federally owned Dominion Coal Blocks in the headwaters of the Flathead River Valley which are being considered for development.

Continue reading . . .