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Air Quality

Emissions and air quality control and monitoring at our operations and in the transportation of our products. Includes particulate emissions, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), other gas emissions and ozone-depleting substances.

Why Was Air Quality a Material Topic in 2015?

Increasing urbanization and growth of industrial development has created greater pressure on air quality through airborne emissions in some regions from sources such as personal and commercial transportation, manufacturing, energy generation and resource extraction. Other factors such as forest fires and burning of fuels for heating also impact air quality. Air pollution can have negative impacts on human health, and in some areas, it is a significant public health concern. In 2013, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) specialized cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, classified outdoor air pollution and particulate matter as carcinogenic to human health. Outdoor air pollution in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012. The WHO has called on governments to develop policies and implement measures to improve air quality. Communities are increasingly concerned about the quality of air. To address this global concern, businesses are required to monitor and mitigate their impacts to air quality and disclose their emissions publicly through inventories such as the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) in the United States and the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) in Canada. 

Air pollutants associated with mining and mineral processing can include particulate matter (e.g., fine and coarse dust that can include metals) and gases. Both of these may contribute to a range of potential health and environmental issues. Dust at operations is generated by a variety of sources such as vehicle traffic on mine roads, blasting and crushing. Dust can also be generated during the transportation of mineral products along the supply chain. The release of these materials has the potential to create health and environmental issues if not appropriately managed and can raise concerns associated with dust in communities.

Learn More
National Pollutant Release Inventory Environment Canada
Toxic Release Inventory United States Environmental Protection Agency 

Our communities of interest have increasingly identified air quality as a key concern at many of our operations. For example, in the Elk Valley, residents report one of their concerns with mine operations is dust. In Chile, residents in Carmen de Andacollo report dust and perceived health issues associated with dust exposure as being one of their primary concerns. Not only do we see increasing community concerns related to air emissions near many of our operations, but also along our supply chain through transportation of our products. There are increasing regulatory requirements associated with emissions that impact us. 

Performance Highlight


the percentage of fugitive dust to be reduced over the next two years
through a comprehensive plan at our Carmen de Andacollo Operations. 



Our Targets and Commitments

We are working to improve monitoring and understanding of our releases to air, set air quality goals with corresponding action plans, and strengthen the integration of air quality considerations into early-stage project development.


How Does Teck Manage Air Quality?

Managing air quality has been a part of the environmental management activities at our operations for many years. In light of increasing concern around potential health issues associated with exposure to particulate matter, combined with growing regulatory requirements and the relevance to our operations, we added ‘Air’ as a focus area in our sustainability strategy in 2015. 

In conjunction with our efforts in the areas of energy and climate change, reducing emissions, monitoring air quality and reducing dusting events are important components of Teck’s environmental management program.

In adding Air as a focus area to our sustainability strategy, we have established company-wide goals and activities to improve our performance in air quality. Air, similar to some of our focus areas that we established in 2010 such as Water and Communities, has had less-established company-wide processes and has primarily been managed on a site-by-site basis. 

Focus areas create a more systematic approach to managing the issue consistently across the company. This requires us to create consistent monitoring practices, set baselines and develop greater capacity at operations before quantitative targets can be developed. 

In 2015, we identified our 2020 goals and selected leaders across the company to implement the following activities in 2016: develop capacity, establish air release baselines and conduct risk assessments for air issues. These steps will set the foundation for setting air quality goals and action plans to achieve the goals.

As part of our ongoing environmental management programs, we implement measures to minimize impacts on the local air quality within the vicinity of our operations. Depending on the activities at each operation, these measures may include:

  • Wetting roads at operations 
  • Applying sealants and dust suppressants to material stockpiles, roadways and railcars
  • Tailings management to minimize dust generation
  • Using cover systems for trucks and railcars, where feasible 
  • Storing and handling materials indoors, where feasible
  • Covering ore stockpiles with domes
  • Using ventilation systems with particulate filtration for conveyors and buildings
  • Modifying blasting practices to reduce dust

For example, we have extensive programs in place at our Red Dog Operations in northwestern Alaska and Trail Operations in southeast British Columbia to mitigate fugitive dust associated with transportation and refining. For more information about dust reduction at Red Dog Operations, see our case study in the Stories section. Follow the link to find more information about dust reduction at Trail Operations

Another example comes from our Carmen de Andacollo Operations in Chile, where we are working closely with the community and regulators to address concerns associated with dust related to mining activities including blasting. In late 2014, the Chilean government established requirements aimed at improving air quality (particulate dust levels) in the community of Andacollo. The plan, which came into force on January 1, 2015, sets out commitments, terms and responsibilities for Teck, for another local mining company and for local government towards improving air quality in the region.


We regularly monitor and report on sources of air emissions and ambient air quality at our operations. Monitoring methods include real-time particulate monitors and high-volume monitors programmed to sample air over a 24-hour period, as well as dust fall jars, for assessing dust levels over longer periods of time.

Information collected from both on- and off-site weather stations, in conjunction with data collected from our air monitoring programs, allows us to determine relationships between dust levels, wind patterns and precipitation. In addition, these local weather stations facilitate timely responses to changes in weather patterns that may affect the surrounding air quality.

The transportation of our products can result in dust generation. For example, we work with our railway transportation partners in Alberta and British Columbia to prevent dust during the transportation of our steelmaking coal by managing load levels, creating a compacted surface and applying sealant sprays to materials in railcars. We also work with our port terminal suppliers to manage dust on-site, including the use of automated dust-suppression systems. Finally, we have programs in place, along with other partners in our supply chain, to monitor the performance of and continuously improve our dust management systems. 


What Was Our Performance in Air Quality in 2015?

In this section, we report on emissions to air and progress on improving air quality near Carmen de Andacollo Operations. 

Emissions to Air in 2015

In addition to monitoring particulate matter, our operations monitor and report on other air emission parameters in accordance with permit and regulatory requirements. In 2015, our operations generated approximately 26,000 tonnes of particulate matter of a size less than 10 microns* and 5,000 tonnes of particulate matter of a size less than 2.5 microns.

*Note, in the 2015 Sustainability Report, we previously reported that we generated approximately 28,000 tonnes of particulate matter of a size less than 10 microns (PM10). As of August 2016, the PM10 value has decreased as a result of calculation methodology reviews conducted during the National Pollutant Release Inventory reporting process.

2015 Air Emissions to Air by Type1,2,3,4,5

(all values in tonnes)

Particulate Matter (less than 10 microns) Particulate Matter (less than 2.5 microns)

Sulphur oxides

Nitrogen Oxides

Carbon Monoxide

Volatile Organic Compounds Mercury
Cardinal River 393 39 2.9 107 2.7 0.1 0.0004
Carmen de Andacollo 338 53 n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Coal Mountain 711 81 0.1 11 8.8 0.6 0.0006
Elkview 5,059 479 0.6 75 65 4.3 0.0004
Fording River 6,580 631 1.2 11 48 3.2 0.0001
Greenhills 3,383 385 2.7 15 57 456 0.0003
Highland Valley Copper 7,763 2,681 36 298 1,228 28 n/m
Line Creek 1,621 152 0.3 3.5 15 1.0 n/m
Pend Oreille 4 4 3.8 57 12 4.8 0.0000
Quebrada Blanca 17 14 385 1,519 9.4 76 n/m
Red Dog 449 n/m 2.7 2,665 246 138 0.0030
Trail 88 68 4,070 318 67 13 0.0365


(1) Requirements and methods for determining air emissions can vary widely. Air emissions may be from point sources (e.g. stacks) and/or diffuse (i.e., fugitive) sources such as stockpiles and roads. Not all sites have monitoring equipment in place to measure releases from all sources and activities, and not all sites estimate fugitive emissions.

(2) “n/m” stands for not measured.

(3) Our Canadian sites report annually to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI). Our Red Dog and Pend Oreille operations report a different scope of air emissions data to the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which has different reporting requirements and, in some cases, alternative calculation methods. Both the NPRI and TRI contain information on chemical releases and waste management activities reported annually by certain facilities. Information in this table may not reflect exactly the contents of NPRI and/or TRI reports due to different reporting definitions concerning site boundaries.

(4) Particulate emissions (i.e., dust) vary significantly by operation due to a number of factors, including weather conditions, location and size of stockpiles, terrain, nature and volume of materials moved and dust mitigation measures in place.

(5) Air emissions types not included in the table, such as persistent organic pollutants, are not required to be reported by permit or legislation and are not material.

Progress on Improving Air Quality near Carmen de Andacollo Operations

In response to regulatory requirements set out in 2014 by the Chilean government and as part of Teck’s ongoing efforts to improve air quality and reduce dust in the Andacollo region, Carmen de Andacollo Operations launched a detailed Atmospheric Decontamination Plan with Chile’s Ministry of Environment and municipal government officials in 2015. The plan’s objective is to lower dust emissions by 65% over the next two years. 

The Atmospheric Decontamination Plan outlines reduction measures such as application of dust suppressants on plant, mine and other internal roads, the construction of stockpile domes to cover ore and prevent dust from escaping into the air, increased meteorological monitoring and the implementation of double-layer blasting. Double-layer blasting is a procedure endorsed by Chile’s National Geology and Mining Service that significantly reduces the amount of particulate matter generated by blasting. Analysis to date has shown that compared to conventional blasting, double-layer blasting provides a 33% reduction in the amount of particulate matter emissions. 

In recognition of our use of double-layer blasting at Carmen de Andacollo to improve air quality, Teck received the 2015 National Environment Award by the Recyclápolis Foundation in recognition of the efforts of Chilean and multinational companies for their commitment to sustainability and the environment.


Outlook for Air Quality

Managing air quality will continue to be an integral part of the environmental management activities at our operations. By establishing Air as a focus area in our sustainability strategy, we have now set specific goals to continue to improve our performance in this area and create more consistent practices across the company. In 2016, we will focus on improving our air quality monitoring and understanding of our releases to air, and the potential impacts on people, communities and the environment.

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Teck is a diversified resource company committed to responsible mining and mineral development with business units focused on copper, zinc, steelmaking coal and energy.