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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 (SO2).

GRI Indicators
305-103, 305-7

Why Was Air Quality a Material Topic in 2016?

Air pollution is a major global health concern and communities are increasingly concerned about the quality of air. In some regions, increasing urbanization and the growth of industrial development has created greater pressure on air quality through airborne emissions from sources such as personal and commercial transportation, manufacturing, energy generation and resource extraction. 

Outdoor air pollution in both cities and rural areas was estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012 (1). The WHO has called on governments to develop policies and implement measures to improve air quality. To address this global concern, governments set a common goal to reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from air pollution by 2030 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Several governments, including the Canadian and American governments, already require companies to monitor and mitigate their impacts on 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.

(1) WHO releases country estimates on air pollution exposure and health impact, September 2016

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, dumping rock onto waste piles, 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.

Our communities of interest have increasingly identified air quality as a key concern at many of our operations. For example, in the Elk Valley and at our Carmen de Andacollo Operations in Chile, residents have reported dust in relation to mine operations as a concern. 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. 

Performance Highlight


of selected sites in 2016 (Table 52) are within the World Health Organization guidelines for annual average concentrate of ambient particulate matter of size less than 2.5 microns in micrograms per cubic metre.



Our Targets and Commitments

Improve monitoring and understanding of our releases to air and the potential impacts on people, communities and the environment by 2020. 

In consultation with communities, governments and other organizations set air quality goals and establish risk-based action plans to achieve goals by 2020. 

Strengthen the integration of air quality considerations into early-stage project development by 2020. 

Partner with communities, governments and other organizations to facilitate action and the sharing of knowledge to continuously improve air quality by 2030. 

Contribute to measurable and meaningful improvements in areas where our activities impact air quality by 2030. 



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, ‘Air’ was added as a focus area to our sustainability strategy in 2015. Our short-term goals to 2020 and long-term goals to 2030 related to air are listed on our website, and a summary of progress against our 2020 goals is available on Our Sustainability Strategy page. 


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 Alaska, Trail Operations in British Columbia, and Carmen de Andacollo Operations in Chile to mitigate fugitive dust associated with transportation and refining. 


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 2016?

In this section, we report on changes to our governance and management systems related to air, efforts to reduce emissions at our operations, updates to monitoring and reporting on air quality, and progress in collaborating with communities and partners to improve air quality.  

Reducing Emissions to Improve Air Quality at Our Operations

In 2016, we implemented measures to minimize impacts on the local air quality within the vicinity of our activities at all operations. 

New Acid Plant at Trail Operations to Reduce Sulphur Dioxide Emissions

In November 2016, we announced an investment of $174 million for the installation of a new acid plant to improve efficiency and environmental performance at our Trail Operations. The new acid plant will enhance environmental performance and will also reduce downtime and maintenance costs. It will reduce SO2 emissions by a further 5% in addition to the 15% reduction in emissions realized from the installation of the No. 1 Acid Plant in 2014. The new plant will replace an existing plant and will be a replica of the No. 1 Acid Plant, using the best commercially available technology. Construction began in the first quarter of 2017, and the plant will become operational in the summer of 2019. Over the last 20 years Teck has made significant investments to improve Trail Operations’ environmental performance, resulting in emissions of metal to air and water being reduced by over 95%.

New Smelter Recycle Building at Trail Operations

In December 2016, Trail Operations opened a Smelter Recycle Building, a $35 million investment that will reduce fugitive dust emissions by up to 25% to improve community air quality. The building contains concentrate and in-process materials that were previously stored outside. These materials will be stowed, mixed and loaded into trucks, all within the building. This will control air flow and ensure that all dust is captured and recycled into the processes. The Smelter Recycle Building is part of our fugitive dust reduction program, aimed at reducing sources of dust such as stockpiles, open mixing of materials, and vehicle traffic on- and off-site. 

Monitoring and Reporting

Air Quality in 2016

In addition to monitoring sulphur dioxide and particulate matter, our operations monitor and report on other air emission parameters in accordance with permit and regulatory requirements. 

Sulphur dioxide emissions from stacks and fossil fuel emissions in 2016 were approximately 4,710 tonnes, compared to 4,500 tonnes in 2015. The change in emissions from 2015 to 2016 was due in part to changes in estimation and monitoring methodologies, and the inclusion of emissions from mobile equipment. Our work to reduce SO2 emissions continued in 2016. For example, Quebrada Blanca Operations started obtaining its energy from the Chilean North Energy System, which resulted in a reduction of SO2 emissions generated at the site. Prior to that, the site generated its own power at an on-site powerhouse.

Table 51: Sulphur Dioxide Emissions from Stacks, Stationary and Mobile Fossil Fuel Combustion (tonnes)(1),(2),(3),(4)






Cardinal River





Coal Mountain










Fording River










Highland Valley Copper(1)





Line Creek





Pend Oreille





Quebrada Blanca





Red Dog










1 From 2013 to 2015, Highland Valley Copper’s SO2 emissions included those from blasting.
2 Information is current at the time of publication. However, values will be added, confirmed and/or changed once regulatory reporting for the 2016 period is complete. For up-to-date values, see the Air Quality page on our website. 
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). 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 as well as the inclusion of mobile equipment in the above table, which is not required in some regulatory reporting requirements.

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

The information contained in the tables below summarizes the ambient air quality during 2016 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

For each of the stations listed in Table 52, the annual average concentration of PM2.5 was below the World Health Organization (WHO) Guideline value of 10μg/m3. For the annual average concentration of PM10 at the stations listed in Table 53, three of the stations were below the WHO Guideline value of 20μg/m3, with the exception being Urmeneta station located in the Andacollo township. Our efforts to improve air quality at Andacollo are highlighted above.

Table 52: Ambient Particulate Matter of Size Less Than 2.5 Microns in 2016 in micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³)


Nearest Operation

Average Annual

98th Percentile


Carmen de Andacollo



Downtown Sparwood




Elkford High School




Table 53: Ambient Particulate Matter of Size Less Than 10 Microns in 2016 in micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³)


Nearest Operation

Average Annual

98th Percentile


Carmen de Andacollo



Downtown Sparwood




Elkford High School




Butler Park




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

Collaborating with Communities and Partners to Improve Air Quality

In 2016, community grievances reported through our feedback mechanisms regarding perceived or actual environmental impacts were largely related to air quality concerns in B.C. in Canada at Trail Operations and at our steelmaking coal operations in the Elk Valley region, and in Chile at our Carmen de Andacollo Operations. 

All complainants’ grievances have been responded to. For more information about our feedback mechanism and approach to resolving grievances, see the Community Engagement page.


Sustainability Strategy

In 2016, as part of our 2020 goal to set air quality targets and establish risk-based action plans to achieve goals in consultation with communities, governments and other organizations, we developed action plans coupled with emissions inventories at all operations. 

View our full goals progress report on Our Sustainability Strategy page

Outlook for Air Quality

Managing air quality will continue to be an integral part of the environmental management activities at our operations. In 2017, Teck will continue to work towards achieving our goals set for 2020 on air quality, with an added attention on monitoring and reporting potential impacts on people, communities and the environment. We will also continue to evaluate mitigation strategies for acute dust events triggered by mine activities in dry or windy weather, most notably for our steelmaking coal operations.

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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.