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Will B.C. now support international inquiry into coal mining pollution?

2 min read

Ainslie Cruickshank reports in The Narwhal that as Canada and the U.S. negotiate an approach to address ongoing pollution from the Elk Valley coal mines, British Columbia has signalled limited support for involving an international commission.

In a nutshell:

Ktunaxa Nation, spanning across parts of B.C., Alberta, Montana, Idaho and Washington State, has persistently pushed for an international commission to investigate cross-border pollution caused by Teck Resources' coal mines in southeast British Columbia. There are concerns about the impact on fish populations, particularly from rising selenium levels. Although Teck has invested over $1.4 billion in water treatment, the pollution endures, affecting rivers flowing across international borders. After years of effort, the B.C. government has signaled a change in approach, considering involvement of the International Joint Commission. However, there are debates regarding the inquiry's scope and transparency, as well as Teck's treatment efficacy, sparking calls for independent evaluation.

Key quote:

There’s a need for the commission “to conduct an independent, transparent and accountable scientific assessment of pollution in the watershed and perform ongoing monitoring,” the Ktunaxa Nation Council, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, wrote in a joint Ktunaxa Nation press release this month.

The big picture:

Ktunaxa Nation has repeatedly appealed to the Canadian and U.S. governments to involve the International Joint Commission in what has become a protracted conflict as the coal mines are a significant employer in the region. But the pollution has created serious concerns for human health and ecosystems: Contaminants released during coal mining, such as heavy metals and particulate matter, can infiltrate air and water sources, exposing communities to elevated health risks. Inhalation of fine particles can lead to respiratory issues and exacerbate lung diseases. The consumption of tainted water and contaminated fish can also introduce harmful substances into the food chain, potentially causing long-term health problems, including organ damage and neurological disorders.

Read the article at The Narwhal.

Mining can impact marine ecosystems as well. Fish carcasses sinking to the deepest parts of the ocean carry toxic mercury pollution that ends up contaminating bottom-dwelling sea creatures, Brian Bienkowski reported for EHN in 2020.

About the author(s):

EHN Staff

Articles written and posted by staff at Environmental Health News

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