Hinton coal mine owner fined $4.5 million for contaminating Athabasca River
A coal mining company was fined $4.5 million in Hinton Provincial Court for a spill that contaminated the Athabasca River in 2013.
A dike that was holding back waste water at the Obed Mountain Mine, located approximately 30 kilometres east of Hinton, failed on October 31, 2013 spilling more than 670 million litres of contaminated water and sediment into Apetowun Creek and Plante Creek, both of which are tributaries that feed the Athabasca River.
Prairie Mines & Royalty ULC (formerly known as Coal Valley Resources Inc.) pled guilty to two counts of violating the federal Fisheries Act and one count under Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, June 9.
Judge C.D. Gardner sentenced the company to pay $3.5 million for the first two counts.
About $1.1 million is to be put into a trust to create a fish habitat and recovery research fund managed by the University of Alberta. Another $2.1 million is to go to the Environmental Damages Fund.
The company was also ordered to pay $925,000 for the provincial conviction.
That penalty includes a fine of $192,000 and a creative sentencing order to pay $363,000 to fund a dam safety research project related to coal mine water storage and pay $370,000 for an indigenous youth environmental education project.
In total the company must pay $4.425 million in penalties.
“Westmoreland has no comment as the incident, liabilities and financial obligations reside with the prior owner,” wrote Gary Kohn, the chief financial officer for Westmoreland Coal, which now owns the mine.
The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) said it continues to receive monthly and annual reports monitoring the remediation of site as was required by an environmental protection order issued on November 19, 2013.
The mine is in the process of being decommissioned and reclaimed.