Last month, Teck began online information meetings for those people in Kimberley who had received notice that the ground water deep under their properties may have been impacted by Sullivan mine-affected rock.
Zoe Ramdin, Teck Community Liaison Officer, says that 71 people officially registered for one of the four sessions.
“This number includes about seven that were either consultants that Teck uses, interested parties in government or internal Teck employees that were curious. This doesn’t include any that joined the session with shared links (I don’t think there was much of this) between friends/interested parties. We are planning the additional technical sessions in the new year, likely late February, to put more information out there as well.”
The Sullivan, a lead, zinc and silver mine, operated in Kimberley from 1909 to 2001. The Sullivan orebody was high in sulphides, and when water comes in contact with the ore, a process called acid rock drainage occurs, where the sulphides can leach into the water.
According to information provided to the property owners by Teck, the majority of the impacted groundwater lies directly beneath the Teck Sullivan property. After closure, the mine void was allowed to fill with water to a level about 50 feet below downtown Kimberley. That took about seven years. Each spring, some of that water is pumped out to the Teck Drainage Water Treatment Plant on the St. Mary River. Water from waste dumps and around the tailings area behind Chapman Camp is also collected and sent to the plant, where contaminants are removed before the water is released into the river.
The plant has been operating since 1979. Between one and three million cubic metres of water is treated each year, about 400 Olympic swimming pools. Monitoring, collecting and treating the water costs about $5 million per year.
Mayor Don McCormick logged in to an information session, and he says he has taken three major points from it.
Number one, it has nothing to do with Kimberley’s drinking water supply, which is taken far up the Mark Creek valley in the watershed.
“There is no issue whatsoever with Kimberley’s water supply.”
Two, because the mountain we live on contains high metal content, there is a natural level of contamination.
“Mining operations have had an impact on those levels,” he said. “And increasing environmental regulations mean what may not have been considered contaminated 20 years ago, would be now.”
And three, Teck is the “responsible person” for contaminated ground water, as they have been working with the province on the long term plan, McCormick says.
“Any issues that may come up, Teck is the one to address it,” he said.
“From my point of view, it is not an issue of major concern. It’s an ongoing response to increasingly strict legislation.”
“Teck has collected, treated and monitored mine-affected water at the Sullivan for more than 40 years; monitoring and sampling results have demonstrated significant improvements in water quality over this time,” says the information package. “Recent upgrades to the interception systems near Mark Creek have improved water quality and were recognized with a BC mine reclamation award. Teck has spent more than $100 million executing the closure plan for the Sullivan mine, and continue to pursue innovative projects and new best practices to improve our reclamation outcomes.”
Teck has submitted a copy of the Notification of Likely or Actual Offsite Migration to the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and are updating their groundwater remediation plan for regulatory approval and designation of an environmental management area.