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US, Canada to review pollution of US waters by British Columbia coal mines

FILE PHOTO: International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Ottawa

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Canada and the United States have agreed to review a long standing cross-border dispute that involves pollution from coal mines in the Canadian province of British Columbia flowing into U.S. waters, the two countries said on Monday.

The deal was announced in a joint statement by U.S. ambassador to Canada David Cohen and his Canadian counterpart Kirsten Hillman. It includes the American and Canadian governments working with British Columbia, the U.S. states of Idaho and Montana, and six indigenous communities on both sides.

Canada and the U.S. asked the International Joint Commission to establish a formal governance body by June 30 to develop options for the future, according to the joint statement. The IJC is a treaty-based group mediating water disputes.

The two countries said they have asked IJC to establish "a two-year Study Board to convene experts and knowledge holders to conduct transparent and coordinated transboundary data and knowledge sharing."

The research panel is tasked with finding ways to decrease contamination from coal mines in British Columbia's Elk Valley, flowing into Lake Koocanusa, a reservoir in British Columbia and Montana, and into American rivers.

The actions will help in "understanding and taking steps to reduce and mitigate the impacts of pollution," the U.S.-Canada joint statement added.

A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey and cited by CBC News said contamination came from mines in British Columbia and that efforts by Canadian miner Teck Resources to slow those releases were not making much difference to the amount flowing south.

Teck Resources said it looked forward to learning more about the announcement by the U.S. and Canada on Monday, adding the company would cooperate with the concerned parties and continue with a plan to improve water quality in the region.

Teck last month said it plans to close the sale of its steel-making coal unit to Glencore no later than the third quarter of 2024.

The Glencore-led consortium's $9 billion bid for Teck Resources' steelmaking coal unit has faced environmental scrutiny in the U.S. and Canada due to water pollution from the mines.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; additional reporting by Divya Rajagopal; Editing by Bill Berkrot)