Teck probing leak of process water at Highland Valley Copper mine

By on April 16, 2017
The three ore stockpile covers at Highland Valley Copper mine near Logan Lake. (Herald file photo).


An investigation is underway following the release of a large volume of contaminated water at the Highland Valley Copper mine near Logan Lake.

Chris Stannell, spokesperson for Teck Resources Ltd. owner of Highland Valley Copper, said freezing in a water pipeline that services the mine’s tailings facility occurred on Saturday, April 8, resulting in the release of approximately 850 cubic metres of process water from the pipeline.

The process water was contained at the site, Stannell said, noting the safety and stability of the mine’s tailings dam was not affected.

“There were no environmental impacts as a result of this incident,” Stannell said. “The leak was reported immediately to regulatory authorities and the line has been taken out of service until repairs are completed. In following our standard protocols, an investigation is underway and appropriate corrective actions will be put in place.”

Highland Valley Copper mine’s superintendent of environment and community affairs, Peter Martell, told the Herald the process water ran down a service road and into a collection pond, which was its destination.

He said there was some seepage of the water into the ground on the road, but there were no environmental impacts as “the process water was all contained within the works of the facility and nothing was released into the environment,” said Martell.

“There’s no metals in the water of any significant level. It’s essentially calcium, magnesium and sulphate,” Martell said. “We reuse 85 per cent of our water, so it keeps circulating and then some of these minerals continue to accumulate.”

The company and the union representing more than 1,000 workers — United Steelworkers Local 7619 — have been embroiled in sometimes tense contract negotiations, with the union last month coming forward with what it said was the latest in a series of incidents it said points to safety concerns at the mine.

In January, renowned mediator Vince Ready was brought in to try to get the two sides closer to an agreement. The contract expired on Sept. 30, 2016.

In a March 2 bargaining update to members, union president Kyle Wolf said a labour dispute is possible.

“Everyone should take a deep breath and schedule their vacation like they would any other year,” Wolf said in his update. “A lot of questions of ‘what if’ have been raised and until the company wants to get back to the table to try and complete this prolonged bargaining session, that ‘what if’ is still a reality.
“It’s never the intention of any Union to bargain the membership out the door, but people should be aware that with the demands the company has on the table at this time, a labour dispute is a very possible reality.

Reserves at Highland Valley are projected to support mining at current planned production rates until 2026. Teck forecasts copper production at Highland Valley Copper is expected to decline from between 35 and 40 per cent after higher grade ore is exhausted in the Valley pit. Production is now moving into the lower grade historical Lornex pit.

Profit at the mine peaked in 2006, when it totalled more than $1 billion.


This story was updated with additional information from the mine’s superintendent of environment and community affairs, Peter Martell at 5:01 p.m. on April 17.

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