January 21st, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 3
Baldy Ridge Extension
- Securing the Future
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Herald Contributor photo
Teck’s Baldy Ridge Extension area.
Feature Writer
Having spent over thirty years working in the Elk Valley coal industry I have had occasion to be part of the planning process that involves mine expansions and the securing of permits to do so. It is one of the most comprehensive and time-consuming exercises that any coal mine can find itself in but is also an essential part of maintaining production levels and extending the future life of a particular mine.
The process is subject to review under British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Act and Teck Coal must obtain a certificate from said Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) before it can proceed with securing Elkview’s long term future. Part of that process involves public review and an opportunity to provide input into the Valued Components Selection through an open house that will be, as the advertisement in the Elk Herald indicates, on January 22 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Sparwood Seniors Center.
This community process is simply an opportunity for the community to give feedback to the EAO as to whether the right issues and values are being looked at or what might have been missed. Whether it be things like fish habitat, wildlife resources, human health, or recreational access, the open house gives you the chance to voice your concerns or opinions. There is also a comprehensive pdf available on line entitled: “Valued Components for Environmental Assessment of the Elkview Operations Baldy Ridge Extension Project” which is 68 pages and provides the reader with the feedback opportunities whether it be on line, by fax or by mail. The open house will also provide an overview of this assessment but if you really want to go deep into the process through the on-line pdf you will have until Feb. 15th to give them your thoughts.
On the EAO website under their Project Information Center (e-PIC) you will also find a 103 page document entitled “Project Description from Proponent” that was submitted last June by Teck and takes you through the whole scope of the Baldy Expansion plan including maps in five year increments that show how the proposed pit and dump developments will unfold.
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For those not inclined or unable to take this computerized trip to the year 2047 (ultimate life of mine) perhaps a brief outline of where Elkview Mine is going for the next thirty years or so might be in order. It should be noted that the present mine operation without the expansion plan is sustainable only until 2024, eight years from now.
The view from Sparwood looking east at Baldy Ridge reveals a prominent undeveloped middle section of the ridge and begs the question: “Is there coal underneath there and aren’t the shops/offices in that area?” The answers to those questions would be yes and yes and therein lies a pretty big issue. The whole suite of mineable seams are under this area and in some cases the big Number 10 seam is fault repeated down deep in this un-mined section. Fault repeated coal is bonus and definitely something worth going after.
The staged mining sequence in the proponent’s pdf show four distinct interacting pit developments for this area called BR3, BR4,BR6 and BR7 which will ultimately take the middle area down to just above the east edge of Ten Mile Road (the main north access to the mine and shops). By year five the office/shop complex will have to be moved and the plans show two options being considered, one moving them north of their present location onto an old dump area and one locating them down low on the mine access road about where Six Mile Road (old main access) turns east off of Ten Mile Road. It appears there is some favourable topography and room to locate them there.
By year ten (2027) Elkview expects to be running no less than 69 trucks as they begin to push back the Natal Pit area (NP2) 650 meters to the southeast and begin pre-stripping the new Adit Pit area (AR1). Adit Pit is east of the present shop location and Natal Pit is the most southerly pit operation going on right now above the Bodie reclaimed dumps. Apparently this wonderfully reclaimed elk habitat will remain undisturbed through the process. A lot of the waste rock from these three pit areas will go into Erickson and Dry Creek but it is interesting to note that over 50% of all waste rock will go back into old in-pit areas, which is a good thing.
Designing staged pit developments to maintain an acceptable strip ratio and balance it with haul distances is tricky but important work and while the strip ratios are high in the first five years (34:1) when put against the final plan that ends with a (1.3:1) it gives a pretty good overall ratio of 7.4:1.
In the report it is noted that developing the BR6 pit area means: “re-location of the existing raw coal conveyor and utilities corridor that runs through the tunnel in Baldy Ridge to allow full recovery of coal reserves located in this area”. It also indicates that the plant coarse refuse dump (CCR) north of the plant will be elevated another 50 meters and that all plant tailings will be pumped back into what the report calls the WFTF (West Fork Tailings Pond) which is east of the Adit Ridge Pit. That must be some kind of pump they are using for that kind of elevation change!
A good chunk of the submission deals with environmental concerns and studies conducted and on-going. The reader will find it quite comprehensive and all encompassing and will note that EVO is planning: “to build new infrastructure to treat mine-affected water for selenium and other water quality CIs. This includes water treatment facilities and clean water diversions around spoils and pits to ‘keep clean water clean.” Of course Elkview, like all other Teck operations, will manage their water: “in a manner consistent with the (now) approved Elk Valley Water Quality Plan to maintain acceptable water quality downstream of the Project.
Onwards and upwards as they say. Or in this case onwards and downwards, chasing Number 10 seam.
January 21st ~ Vol. 85 No. 3
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