KNC recognizes Province for enforcing water quality regulatory requirements

KNC recognizes Province for enforcing regulatory requirements intended to address water quality pollution

Recent penalties to Teck reflect consideration of Ktunaxa rights and technical input

February 8, 2023

ʔa·kisk̓aqǂiʔit / Cranbrook, B.C.:
The Ktunaxa Nation Council recognizes B.C.’s Ministry of the Environment for acknowledging Ktunaxa rights and title, and KNC technical submissions, in its recent decision to enforce penalties to industry for not meeting water quality treatment and mitigation requirements in the Elk Valley.

In three determinations released on January 31, 2023, the Ministry’s Compliance and Environmental Enforcement Branch issued ‘administrative penalties’ in excess of $16 Million CAD to Teck Coal Ltd., for impacts to water quality in Qukin ʔamakʔis (the Elk Valley).

Natural Resources Compliance and Enforcement Database

“The KNC highlights the acknowledgement made in these determinations that the mining activities and associated impacts are within Ktunaxa territory, and that KNC will continue to be consulted on the issues that impact our rights and title and these waterways,” said Kathryn Teneese, KNC Chair.

“We have been resolute and consistent in our desire to see improvements in the mine-impacted waters in the Elk Valley, and are glad to see our contributions to this review process were well-considered in the determinations.”

“During the time frames outlined in the penalty determinations, hundreds of thousands of kilograms of untreated contaminants—which were required to be treated—instead entered the Elk and Kootenay rivers,” Teneese said.

Multiple years of non-compliance with legal regulatory requirements for water quality have had a high impact on the environment and Ktunaxa harvesting rights and cultural practices.

It is Teck’s responsibility, as the permit holder for mine operations in the Elk Valley, to design, construct, and operate water treatment mitigation to reduce the water quality contamination from coal mining operations. The failure to meet water quality limits and treatment timelines signals a serious deviation from the “valley-wide” permit. This is recognized to undermine the integrity of the regulatory regime, interfering with the Ministry’s capacity to protect and conserve the environment. It also contributes to a significant cross-boundary contamination issue.

The Administrative Penalties issued to Teck were determined under the Province’s Environmental Management Act (EMA). The Compliance and Environmental Enforcement Branch reviewed information submitted by Teck and by KNC in reaching its determinations.

“The purpose of the EMA is to protect the environment, and waste discharge standards are one way this purpose can be realized,” Teneese said. “But the standards are only as meaningful as the compliance that backs them up.

“It’s good to see the enforcement branch taking action, and we hope these actions will result in improved performance.”

KNC views the determinations as a meaningful step toward reconciliation from the Ministry of the Environment. The determinations show that B.C. recognizes the role of Ktunaxa as the stewards of ʔamakʔis Ktunaxa, and state that Ktunaxa perspective will continue to inform the process and decision-making around water quality mitigation in the Elk Valley.


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