Teck Resources Limited (Teck) is the second largest exporter of steelmaking coal in the World, producing large quantities of waste rock. In order to minimize the risk of naturally occurring constituents such as selenium and nitrate from waste rock to accumulate in the watershed and affect aquatic life, Teck’s Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (EVWQP) was approved by the B.C. Ministry of Environment in 2014. As part of water quality management under the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (EVWQP), Teck has completed commissioning a full scale biological water treatment facility in 2016 at the Line Creek Operation and is planning two more at the Fording River and Elkview Operations for removal of naturally occurring constituents such as nitrate/selenium, phosphorus and COD (chemical oxygen demand).
In a long term collaboration between the Baldwin Lab at UBC and Teck’s Applied Research and Technology Group, some of the intricacies of biological treatment have already been uncovered resulting in significant cost savings for Teck. Through a five year long microbiology program that will kick-start with this project, Teck is looking to gain better information on 1) how process variability and microbial population inside the reactor affect treatment efficiency; 2) variability of selenium speciation (dissolved versus solid forms); 3) metabolic by-products that, if discharged, could have potential adverse effect on the environment; 4) consumption of reagents and generation of residuals.
Teck will partner with Dr. Susan Baldwin of the University of British Columbia and Tetra Tech, a consulting and engineering service provider addressing complex water contamination around the world, to use metagenomics approaches for developing field deployable monitoring and process control tools to diagnose bioreactor performance and optimize future operations, scale up and deployment. This will impact Teck and BC by optimizing reagents and sludge generation, reducing operating costs and overall environmental risk, improving operability and process control and gaining more data for future go/no go decisions regarding Teck’s microbiology program.