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Air Quality

Emissions and air quality control at our operations and in the transportation of our products. Includes ambient air quality and emissions of sulphur dioxide.

GRI Indicators
305-103, 305-7

Air Quality

The 2019 World Environment Day theme “Beat Air Pollution” was a call to action by the United Nations to combat the challenge of poor air quality.1 While economic growth can result in an increase in air pollution, alternative consumption and production models, knowledge advancements and innovative solutions can successfully reduce emissions to air.2

Mining and mineral processing can contribute to air pollution through processes such as drilling, blasting, crushing, collection and storage, and transportation along the supply chain. Associated emissions to air include particulate matter (e.g., fine and coarse dust that can include minerals and metals) and gases. To maintain a transparent approach to managing these emissions, several governments, including the Canadian and American governments, require companies to monitor and mitigate their impacts on air quality and to disclose their emissions publicly through inventories such as the Toxic Release Inventory in the United States and the National Pollutant Release Inventory in Canada.

Air quality, particularly related to dust, continues to be identified as a key concern by our communities of interest, especially at our steelmaking operations in the Elk Valley and Trail Operations in B.C. and at Carmen de Andacollo Operations in Chile. As air quality issues require close collaboration with local stakeholders, we continue to explore initiatives to improve air quality across our operations. ­­

 
1 World Environment Day 2019. UN Environment Programme. 2019.
2 Towards a Pollution-Free Planet. UN Environment Assembly. 2017.

Our Approach to Air Quality

Managing air quality is an important part of the environmental management programs at all of our operations. Air pollutants associated with mining and mineral processing can include particulate matter (e.g., fine and coarse dust that can include metals) and gases.

Dust at operations is generated by a variety of sources, such as vehicle traffic on mine roads, dumping rock onto waste piles, and 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, environmental or aesthetic concerns among our stakeholders, if not appropriately managed.

Our communities and stakeholders have increasingly identified air quality as a key concern at many of our operations. Effectively managing air quality is integral to our sustainability strategy and for building positive relations with surrounding communities. Our goal is to continuously improve air quality and reduce dust emissions for the benefit of workers, communities and the environment in areas affected by our activities.

The Safety and Sustainability Committee of the Board broadly oversees health, safety, environment and community policies, systems, performance and auditing, including implementation of our Health, Safety, Environment and Community (HSEC) Management Standards. 

The following senior leaders are involved in implementing the management of air quality:

  • The Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs reports directly to our CEO and is responsible for sustainability, health and safety, environment, community, and Indigenous affairs, including air quality

  • The Vice President, Environment oversees the work conducted by site-based air quality leads, and provide air management expertise to research, evaluate and share best practices, to provide for consistency across the organization, and to support operations and resource development projects

At each of our operations, we have a designated team who leads Teck’s work in managing air quality. These employees are responsible for monitoring emissions to the air and using the results to inform and implement improved air management practices. 

Our Code of Sustainable Conduct outlines our commitment to continually improve our environmental practices and to ensure they are fully integrated into each of our activities.

We work with various local, national and international organizations and programs to support our efforts in improving air quality:

We implement numerous measures to minimize impacts on the local air quality within the vicinity of our operations. Depending on the specific activities and conditions at each operation, these measures may include:

  • Wetting roads
  • Applying sealants and dust suppressants to material stockpiles, roadways and railcars
  • Minimizing exposure of tailings and other materials to air where possible
  • Using cover systems for trucks and railcars, where feasible
  • Storing and handling materials indoors, where feasible
  • Enclosing ore stockpiles
  • Using ventilation systems with particulate filtration for conveyors and buildings
  • Modifying blasting practices to reduce dust

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.

Information collected from both on-site 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. We review and adjust activities, based on monitoring results, to maintain or improve air quality.

We have extensive monitoring programs in place at particular operations to reduce fugitive dust associated with our activities. At Red Dog, Highland Valley Copper, Elkview, Greenhills, Line Creek, Fording River and Cardinal River operations, these efforts are focused on ambient air quality monitoring, while at Carmen de Andacollo and Trail operations, they are focused both on ambient air quality and weather monitoring.

As the transportation of our products can result in dust generation, we work with our railway transportation partners in Alberta and British Columbia to mitigate impacts. We prevent dust during the transportation of our steelmaking coal by managing load levels, creating a low-profile, 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. 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.

 

Our sustainability strategy outlines our goals in relation to air quality at our operations.

By 2020, we will:

  • Improve monitoring and understanding of our releases to air and the potential impacts on people, communities and the environment
  • In consultation with communities, governments and other organizations, set air quality goals and establish risk-based action plans to achieve goals
  • Strengthen the integration of air quality considerations into early stage project development

 

By 2030, we will:

  • Partner with communities, governments and other organizations to facilitate action and the sharing of knowledge to continuously improve air quality
  • Contribute to measurable and meaningful improvements in areas where our activities impact air quality

For more information on our existing and new sustainability strategy goals, see the Sustainability Strategy section of our website.

Type

Organization

Items Reviewed

External

International Council on Mining and Metals: Sustainability Report assurance

  • Total SO2 emissions from stacks, stationary and mobile fossil fuel combustion
  • Percentage of selected community-based air quality stations (three stations) with annual mean concentrations of ambient PM2.5 within World Health Organization guideline value of 10 μg/m3
  • Principle 6: Pursue continual improvement in environmental performance issues, such as water stewardship, energy use and climate change

External

ISO 14001 External Audit

  • Components of the environmental management system at each site

Internal

Risk-based Health, Safety and Environment audits

  • Adherence to regulatory and permit requirements
  • Effectiveness of controls based on risk profile

Following each of these types of verification, applicable management teams use the results to inform future actions and Teck’s five-year planning process.

We report on our performance against these indicators and our progress towards our air quality management goals on an annual basis in our sustainability report. [INSERT LINK]

 

Our Performance in Air Quality in 2019

Minimizing Emissions to Improve Air Quality

In 2019, we implemented measures to minimize impacts on the local air quality within the vicinity of our activities.

Table 29: Air Quality Improvements in 2019

Operation

Activities

Elk Valley

Continued to advance our dust management activities and evaluated air quality improvement initiatives. Programs evaluated in 2019 include; pilot of MicroPulse LiDAR to identify and track movement of fugitive dust/air emission sources, pilot of on-vehicle continuous monitoring systems for ambient air, various in-pit dust suppressions and water application systems, implementation of trigger-action response plans for excessive risk sources of fugitive dust at operations.

Trail

Continued to implement dust management initiatives to support additional reductions in the level of metals in ambient air in the surrounding community. The new road dust monitoring tool that was developed in 2018 was implemented and further improved in 2019. This includes the addition of smart tool functionality that incorporates sensor data on cleaning and washing with road dust data. An anticipated additional benefit is the reduction of water use at the site. Additional information on our efforts is available as a case study on our website. [NTD: Link to specific case study to be added in February 2020]

Carmen de Andacollo

Established our first community-managed air quality monitoring station in Chile at our Carmen de Andacollo Operations. Community members manage the new equipment and will receive necessary training in 2020 to understand the operation and interpret and manage the data. Additional information on our efforts is available as a case study on our website. [NTD: Link to specific case study to be added in February 2020]  

Monitoring and Reporting

The most material air quality issues relate to metals and SO2 near our Trail Operations metallurgical facility and to particulate emissions at our mining operations. In addition to monitoring these two material indicators, our operations monitor and report on other air emission parameters in accordance with permit and regulatory requirements.

As shown in Table 30, SO2 emissions from stacks and fossil fuel emissions in 2019 were approximately 3,858 tonnes, compared to 3,659 tonnes in 2018. Although SO2 emissions are higher in 2019 when compared to 2018, low emissions in 2018 were the result of an extended maintenance shutdown of the KIVCET smelter at Trail Operations. SO2 emissions have continued to decrease over the years compared to 2016 and 2017. Trail Operations is the most significant source of SO2 emissions for Teck and, as a result, all other operations have been aggregated in Table 30. Full results per operation are available in the 2019 Sustainability Performance Data spreadsheet.

Table 30: SO2 Emissions from Stacks, Stationary and Mobile Fossil Fuel Combustion (tonnes)1,2,3,4

Operation

2019

2018

2017

2016>

All other operations

42.0

61.4

80.4

52.9

Trail

3811.0

3,598.0

4,814.0

4,665.0

Total

3,853.0

3,659.4

4,894.4

4,717.9

 
(1) Aggregate data for all other operations presented here, as numbers are insignificant compared to Trail. See our website for full set of data 
(2) Information current at time of publication. However, values will be added, confirmed and/or changed once regulatory reporting for the 2019 period is complete. See our website for up-to-date information.
(3) Requirements and methods for determining air emissions can vary widely. Not all sites have monitoring equipment in place to measure releases from all sources and activities and the frequency of sampling can vary.
(4) Our Canadian sites report annually to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) and American operations report to the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which have different reporting requirements and calculation methods. Information in this table may not reflect exactly the contents of NPRI and/or TRI reports, due to different reporting definitions concerning site boundaries as well as the inclusion of mobile equipment in the above table, which is not required in some regulatory reporting requirements.

 

Trail has been a leader in driving down lead levels in air for a decade; and over the last three years, investments of over $40 million have resulted in a 56% reduction over the last three years. The primary way Trail is working towards reducing SO2 emissions is through the new acid plant, which will reduce SO2 emissions from zinc operations, although total emissions will vary year to year, based on production.

In 2019, Trail’s air permit was reissued with more stringent ambient SO2 requirements included by the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. In response to these new requirements, Trail is developing an improved dispersion model with advanced predictive modelling and advancing milling and scrubbing engineering improvements, and evaluating other SO2 reduction projects.

Ambient Air Quality Monitoring

As part of our ambient air quality monitoring program, we measure the concentration of particulate matter of a size less than 10 microns (PM10) and particulate matter of a size less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) at monitoring stations. These monitoring stations use standardized equipment, per permit and regulatory requirements, and are located on our sites and in a number of community centres. Tables 31 and 32 summarize the ambient air quality during 2019 as measured at a number of community-based monitoring stations that we manage. Two values are presented:

  • The annual average concentration that is based on the daily 24-hour average concentrations; this value reflects prolonged or repeated exposures over longer periods
  • The annual peak 24-hour indicator that is based on the 98th percentile of the daily 24-hour average concentrations; this value reflects immediate exposures

At these monitoring stations, ambient air quality not only reflects the activities at our operations, but also other activities in the area such as other industries, vehicle traffic, firewood burning, forest fires and waste burning.

For all of the stations listed in Table 31, the annual average concentration of PM2.5 was below the WHO Guideline value of 10 μg/m3. For the annual average concentration of PM10 at the stations listed in Table 32, 75% of the stations were below the WHO Guideline value of 20 μg/m3.

Table 31: Ambient Particulate Matter of Size Less Than 2.5 Microns  (µg/m³)

Station

Nearest Operation

2019

2018

2017

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Urmeneta

Carmen de Andacollo

7

14

8

12

8

14

Downtown Sparwood

Elkview

7

14

8

521

5

21

Elkford High School

Greenhills

4

16

7

521

7

49

(1) Incomplete hourly data set, per the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment: Criteria ii. 2nd and 3rd quarter is not complete (<60% valid daily data sets in this quarter) for Elkview Operations and 3rd quarter is not complete for Greenhills Operations.

 

Table 32: Ambient Particulate Matter of Size Less Than 10 Microns (µg/m³)

Station

Nearest Operation

2019

2018

2017

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Urmeneta

Carmen de Andacollo

34

59

33

51

29

51

Downtown Sparwood

Elkview

13

44

17

82

14

44

Elkford High School

Greenhills

10

43

11

57

10

461

Butler Park

Trail

14

28

28

165

18

54

(1) Incomplete hourly data set, per the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment: Criteria ii. 3rd quarter is not complete (<60% valid daily data sets in this quarter).

For more information about our emissions to air, such as nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds and mercury, visit National Pollutant Release Inventory for our Canadian operations and Toxic Release Inventory for our American operations.


Outlook for Air Quality

In 2020, we will continue our commitment to improve air quality for the benefit of workers, communities and the environment in areas affected by our activities. We will evaluate more effective forms of dust suppressant for haul roads and tailings facilities and conduct modelling to better understand how we can change our practices to improve air quality across our operations. Advancing additional ambient air quality monitoring at sites may allow for development of additional quantitative targets in the years to come.


Teck

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