Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher said that although he is personally opposed to the Bingay Mine, if it will benefit Elkford and not damage the community in any way, then he is open for discussion.
His reason for not supporting, is because he feels like Centermount does not have a concrete plan in place.
However, McKerracher agreed with CAO Curtis Helgesen’s comment when he said that total opposition to the mine will leave no room for negotiations with Centermount. Helgesen inquired as to whether or not there was a door they could leave open.
“I agree with that,” said McKerracher. “That we need to be able to negotiate with them.
“So if the province and the federal government give them the license to go forward, then we as a municipality need to be able to work with them on a one-on-one… secure our needs for our community and make sure things are running as they should.”
McKerracher addressed some comments raised at the Bingay concerns meeting held on January 18 at Teck Community Hall.
McKerracher wanted to clarify that, contrary to what was said, Centermount would indeed pay into the mine tax pool if they were to establish themselves north of Elkford. Every municipality in the Elk Valley as well as Area A receives a portion of this tax.
He responded to another concern raised at the meeting; that the District of Elkford would be responsible for testing their water with isotopes to determine if the water from upstream was affecting their wells.
“I totally disagree with that,” said McKerracher. “I think if they’re going to build a mine up the valley, then they need to be the ones showing they’re environmentally friendly to the community.”
Right now the District monitors their wells many times throughout a week. Lately they have been noticing a slight increase of selenium in their water. If this selenium concentration gets to a point where they can no longer use their wells, McKerracher says he will expect Teck Resources to drill them new wells. He says Centermount needs to be on board with this plan as well.
He says he also expects Centermount to produce appropriate research on the water, prove to him that they’re not going to destroy the Elk River, and develop a road around so that people can still access the Elk Lakes Provincial Park.
The mayor added he doesn’t believe Centermount’s proposal for a railroad is feesable. McKerracher recently found out that Teck owns the railroad from Fording River Operations to Sparwood.
“I can’t see them sharing that rail,” he said, adding that his reasoning behind this comes from the presumed increase in production at all other Teck operations once Coal Mountain closes.
Speaking to this, he is completely opposed to the company trucking coal through Elkford as he believes this cannot be done without leaving coal dust behind.
McKerracher said that he’s concerned about Centermount’s proposal for a dryer. In the morning, winds head north, through Elkford and up the valley. In the evening, they switch and come south.
“We’re getting more coal dust from Greenhills than we’ve ever had before,” he said.
In the 12 years that Dean McKerracher has been mayor of Elkford, Centermount has been presenting this project to Council. In this time, the plans have changed drastically.
“I understand that the mine plans change, but to the degree that they’ve changed, it’s just ridiculous,” he said.
During the open house held in Elkford last November, which served as the Public Comment Period #1, Pre-Application Stage for Bingay, McKerracher attended. He said that very few of his questions were answered, and he left disappointed.
Despite this, he admitted that as Mayor, he must remain open-minded.