Coal Mines in Elk Valley Draw U.S. Concern
Two United States Senators and the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have sent the Canadian government letters expressing concern about pollution crossing the border from coal mines in the Elk River Valley.
B.C.'s Elk and Fording rivers connect with two transboundary water bodies: Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenay River, shared with Montana.
In the EPA letter, Administrator Lisa Jackson asked the Canadian and B.C. governments to support a cumulative effects assessment of the existing and planned coal mine projects in the area. The EPA is focused on the "significant and continuing" increase of selenium in area rivers and lakes.
The Elk River, which is designated as a classified waters trout fishery (a special designation for highly productive trout streams), is one of the last strongholds both for genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout and endangered bull trout.
"We're especially concerned about the proposed Bingay coal mine that would be located next to the Elk River, smack in the middle of a globally significant wildlife corridor that connects the Flathead River Valley to Banff National Park," said Sarah Cox, acting executive director of Sierra Club B.C.
"Three years ago, the World Heritage Committee recommended a moratorium on new mining in that corridor."
The Bingay mine would be in addition to five existing coal mines, four mine expansion proposals and three exploration projects in the Elk Valley.
The Elk Valley is part of the same wildlife corridor as B.C.’s Flathead River Valley, which links Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park to Canada’s Rocky Mountain parks. Learn more about the Flathead.
Want to learn more about this part of the world? Join us on February 28 for an event at the Royal BC Museum about last summer's Flathead BioBlitz. Birds, insects and fish, oh my!