Company says it is working to fix water discharge problem at Alberta coal mine

EDMONTON – A company that owns a coal mine west of Edmonton says it is working to fix environmental problems affecting one of its tailings ponds.

The Alberta Energy Regulator has said it found significant deficiencies in 2014 at the Coal Valley Resources mine near Edson that allow water to flow from a coal pit.

The regulator said erosion of the structure was the cause and the flow of water contravenes environmental rules.

Westmoreland Coal Co. says the mine was already under government enforcement orders because of water management concerns when Westmoreland purchased Coal Valley Resources last year.

President John Schadan says Westmoreland has spent more than $22 million since then to bring the mine up to standard.

Schadan says the company continues to work with the regulator to ensure that all water management structures at the mine meet regulatory requirements.

“Westmoreland is now monitoring and managing this discharge, while keeping the AER informed of the results,” Schadan said in an email.

“We are currently designing a permanent structure that will allow for continual water discharge from this location. We will be submitting this design and an implementation plan to the AER for approval.”

The regulator said it inspected water structures at 31 coal mines in the province and only found significant deficiencies at the Edson mine.

The AER conducted the inspections after a report by the auditor general last March said the government was failing to properly regulate the province’s network of energy industry dams and tailings ponds.

The Edson mine is separate from the Obed coal mine near Hinton, where about 670 million litres of waste water spilled on Oct. 31, 2013.

At the time, Coal Valley Resources operated the Obed mine as a subsidiary of Sherritt International Corp. (TSX:S).

Last month, the Alberta Crown charged the two companies with offences under Alberta’s Environmental Protection Act, Public Lands Act and Water Act over the spill.

Sherritt sold Coal Valley Resources to Westmoreland in 2014.