Fording River Mine

Commodities: Metallurgical and thermal coal

Location: 29 km northeast of Elkford, BC.

Geology and Type of Deposit: Fording River Mine is located in the Foreland belt of the Canadian Cordillera. The coal deposit occurs in the Jurassic-Cretaceous Mist Mountain Formation (Kootenay Group) interbedded with sandstone, siltstone and shale. These host rocks were folded and faulted during mountain building. At least 18 coal seams - of which around 8 are generally greater than 4 m thick, are mined here.

The Operation: Surface mining began at Fording River Mine in 1971. Fording River is one of the five coal mines in southeastern BC that are owned and operated by Teck Coal Ltd. At current production rates (8.2 million tonnes/year), Fording River has proven coal reserves which will allow mining to continue for another 50 years.

Mining Method: Conventional open pit coal mining. Blasted waste rock material is loaded by large shovels onto haul trucks and taken to a waste rock dump. Bulldozers clean the coal seam surface, pushing the broken-up coal down to the bench floor for easy pick-up. Wheel loaders load other haul trucks with coal for transport to a crusher.

Processing: The crushed coal is screened to remove large chunks, and then undergoes washing to separate the coal from any other mixed-in sedimentary rock particles. Once sorted and separated from waste rock the cleaned coal is dried and conveyed to a stockpile and into a silo where it is held until it is loaded onto rail cars.

Markets: Fording River coal is transported in rail cars 1,175 km from the mine to Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank (Delta), Neptune Terminals in the Port of Vancouver, or to Ridley Terminal in Prince Rupert, where it is loaded onto bulk carriers and shipped to markets overseas, primarily Japan and South Korea.

Community and Employment: Fording River employs more than 1,200 people. Most employees live in Elkford, Sparwood, Fernie, and Crowsnest Pass.

Environmental Considerations: Fording River is located high in the Rocky Mountains at an elevation where the land is generally covered with spruce and pine forests with patches of sub-alpine meadows. The area is habitat to many mountain dwelling and woodland animals, including bears, cougars, deer, elk, Rocky Mountain sheep and mountain goats. Environmental staff monitor and work toward maintaining clean air and good water quality throughout the site. When the mine closes and the site is entirely reclaimed, the land will be restored for forestry, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation.

Ongoing reclamation work at Fording River has involved re-sloping waste rock dumps from an angle of 37 degrees to 28 degrees, and replanting them. This gentle-sloping shape lessens soil erosion and makes it easier for seedlings and cuttings to take root and grow. About 40,000 seedlings are planted every year, most of which are started in a greenhouse at the mine. About 20 hectares are re-vegetated each year by special seed mixes or by planting conifer and deciduous tree seedlings. Successfully reclaimed areas provide forage for wildlife.

Fording River's attention to the environment, and its successful reclamation efforts, have earned the mine 23 environmental awards since 1978. It was selected winner of the 2006 Citation for Outstanding Achievement for Reclamation at a Coal Mine at the 28th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium. This award acknowledges their successes in finding the best methods and timing to reclaim mountainous areas, for their successes in recreating forest and wildlife forage areas, and for restoring fisheries in local rivers that were affected by mining.

BCMEM's Fording River MINFILE profile.