10/17/2013 07:59 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Teck Resources Conservation: $19M For Flathead River

SPARWOOD, B.C. - Mining giant Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B, TCK.A) will spend $19 million to buy thousands of hectares of land in southeast British Columbia for conservation, the company announced Thursday.

The company said it purchased more than 7,000 hectares in the Elk and Flathead river valleys from Tembec Inc., not for mining but to preserve wildlife and fish habitat.

"While not amenable to mining, the lands have the potential to be used for conservation purposes," the company announced.

Company president Don Lindsay said Teck will work with area First Nations and conservation groups to ensure the protection of key wildlife and fish habitat.

"Teck is committed to responsible resource development and we strongly believe that it's possible to have both world-class mining and a world-class environment," Lindsay said in a statement.

The land includes the Flathead town site, about 28 kilometres southeast of Sparwood, B.C., a 3,000-hectare stretch along the Alexander Creek, and another approximately 3,000-hectare area of the Grave Prairie, north of the others.

The purchase was welcomed by conservation groups that have long advocated for a national park in the area of B.C. directly adjacent to the Waterton-Glacier park in Alberta and Glacier National Park in Montana.

"We're very excited that Teck has made a significant investment to purchase and work towards conserving this important wildlife and fish habitat," said John Bergenske, executive director of the group Wildsight.

Flathead Wild, a coalition of conservation groups in B.C., Alberta and Montana, said the Teck purchase covers critical habitat for trout, bears, birds and lynx.

After a prolonged campaign that reached as high as the White House, the provincial government banned mining and drilling in the Flathead River basin two years ago over concerns for Glacier National Park south of the border.

Teck, which operates a lead and zinc smelter in Trail about 300 kilometres west of the land purchase, was found liable by a Washington state judge last year for the costs of cleaning up decades of pollution in the Columbia River.

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