OPEN-PIT COAL MINING IN THE ELK VALLEY AND RESULTANT SELENIUM POLLUTION: AN EGOLOGICAL RISK ASSESSMENT OF TWO FUTURE ELK VALLEY COAL MINING OPERATIONS
MetadataShow full item record
Coal mining in the Elk Valley, British Columbia is one of the area’s largest industries and is important to local economic development. However, many ecological impacts associated with coal mining are being observed including impacts on one of the area’s most valuable sport fish, westslope cutthroat trout (WCT). Selenium (Se) has been particularly of concern due to its ability to biomagnify in aquatic food chains and accumulate in the tissues and eggs of higher trophic species. This has resulted in significant decreases in WCT reproductive success in areas of the Elk and Fording Rivers and has caused species extirpations from areas abroad. There is concern over the development of future coal mining projects in the Elk Valley including the Baldy Ridge Extension (BRE) project, which is an extension of Elkview Operations (EVO), and the Coal Mountain Phase II (CMO2) project, which is an extension of the current Coal Mountain Operations (CMO). In order to assess the potential ecological risks from these projects, an ecological risk assessment (ERA) was conducted to look at the potential Se loading and associated impacts on WCT. CMO2 has the potential to impact WCT due to its proximity to one of the largest WCT spawning grounds in the region. BRE has the potential to impact WCT populations due to its estimated large quantities of Se loading into Michel Creek and the Elk River. Both projects present significant risk to WCT populations. CMO2 was not estimated to load significant quantities of Se into nearby waterways and WCT populations near BRE are some of Elk Valley’s lowest. For these reasons, both projects are considered medium-risk projects and should be further evaluated before their approval and development.