British Columbia’s Elk Valley Mines
EcoFlight headed up north to fly enormous coal mining operations in British Columbia that threaten US water quality, communities, recreation, and fish. We flew with reporters, the head of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribe's Natural Resource Department, the International Joint Commission, conservationists, and scientists.
Heading from Kalispell, Montana, we flew up the Flathead Valley into the remote backcountry of the Elk Valley. Amidst the untamed and seemingly undeveloped wilderness lies enormous mining operations - the Teck Resources mines, five open-pit coal mines. Large-scale mountaintop removal, and valleys filled with industry, equipment, and buildings stand in stark contrast to the surrounding unaltered terrain. Beyond surface landscape disruptions, scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about pollution from the five Elk Valley open-pit coal mines. Studies show heavy metal pollution from these mines is measurable; downstream near the US border, selenium levels have been recorded that are over four times the provincial guidelines for protecting fish and wildlife! These high levels of selenium increase fish abnormalities and fatalities. Further, the contamination is a public health concern for the three municipalities in the Elk Valley; drinking water wells in one municipality, Sparwood, were found to be contaminated. Despite concerns and pushback from conservation groups, Tribes, and the public, little has been done to address the mining contamination of BC and US communities and watersheds. The mining operations strengthen the region's economy and Teck Resources is seeking to expand. The company has proposed a large new coal mine on a mountain adjacent to the existing Fording River mine.
Our partners, including NGOs and Tribal leaders, along with US governments are seeking stronger regulations and increased oversight of BC mining operations that threaten watersheds, important cultural landscapes, fish populations, and recreation.
Click to download a .kmz file with geo-referenced flight photos