British Columbia-based Teck Resources – one of the world’s largest zinc producers – has taken responsibility for a century-long slag discharge into the U.S. area of the Upper Columbia River.
Teck’s announcement came at its ongoing federal U.S. trial, where the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and Washington State aimed to force Teck to comply with U.S. Superfund rules over the discharge of slag mining waste and effluent from its Trail smelter.
Slag is a glass-like compound that is a granulated byproduct of the smelting process. It contains small amounts of base metals, including zinc, lead, copper and cadmium.
Teck decided to agree to a statement of facts and move on to phase two of the trial.
The company’s subsidiary, Teck Metals, stipulates that “some portion of the slag discharged” from its British Columbia (B.C.) Trail smelter into the Columbia River between 1896 and 1995, and “some portion” of the effluent discharged has been transported to and are present in the Upper Columbia River.
The agreement also concedes that “some hazardous substances” were released.
Teck had previously argued that the U.S. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, also known as the Superfund law, did not have jurisdiction over foreign companies.
If Teck loses the case, filed in 2004, a dollar amount for damages and the remediation process could still be several years away.
The company has commissioned a study by experts in natural resource damage assessment.
On June 2, 2006, Teck and the Environmental Protection Agency reached a settlement agreement that stated Teck would voluntarily carry out remedial investigation and feasibility studies of the Upper Columbia River.
The B.C. mining company was forced to pay $325,000 in damages for chemical spills in 2010 after an Environment Canada investigation.