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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

Air Quality

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.

Air pollutants associated with mining and mineral processing can include particulate matter (e.g., fine and coarse dust that can include minerals and 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, storing materials, blasting and crushing. Dust can also be generated during the transportation of mineral products along the supply chain.

To maintain a transparent approach to managing these pollutants, 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.

Our communities and stakeholders 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. Air quality concerns are increasing at certain locations and require close collaboration with local stakeholders. In 2017, there was a particular concern with air quality in communities surrounding our steelmaking coal operations in the Elk Valley and Highland Valley Copper Operations, due to the smoke from the large number of wildfires in British Columbia.

Teck’s 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, 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 and tailings guidance.

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 and his team oversee 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 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. We review and adjust activities based on monitoring results to maintain or improve air quality.

We have extensive monitoring programs in place at our Red Dog Operations in Alaska, Trail Operations in British Columbia, and Carmen de Andacollo Operations in Chile to reduce fugitive dust associated with our activities. At Red Dog, these efforts are focused on ambient air quality monitoring, at Carmen de Andacollo they are focused on weather monitoring, and at Trail they are focused on both 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. 

Table 1: Air Quality Internal and External Audits

Type

Organization

Items Audited

External

Mining Association of Canada: Towards Sustainable Mining audit

SO2 emissions

Percentage of selected community-based air quality stations (three stations) with annual mean concentrations of ambient PM2.5 within WHO guidelines

Principle 6: Pursue continual improvement in environmental performance issues, such as water stewardship, energy use and climate change

External

ISO 14001 external audits

Components of the environmental management system at each site

Internal

Risk-based Health, Safety and Environment audits at each site

Adherence to regulatory and permit requirements

Effectiveness of controls based on risk profile

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

Our Performance in Air Quality in 2017

In 2017, we implemented measures to minimize impacts on the local air quality within the vicinity of our activities.

Table 32: Air Quality Improvements in 2017

Operation

Air Quality Improvement

Carmen de Andacollo

Through improved dust management and monitoring practices and operational adjustments, the site achieved a reduction in PM10 emissions of over 65% compared to 2010 levels. Using remote cameras to monitor potential sources of dust and adjust activities accordingly, restricting blasting during adverse weather conditions, and applying effective dust suppression products contributed to this improvement.

Steelmaking coal operations in the Elk Valley

As an improvement to existing dust management and suppression programs that are in place at all of our operations, alternative dust suppression products were identified and are being evaluated for efficacy compared to products currently used. At Elkview Operations, a new water truck was purchased and fitted with a mister system for improved watering on spoils, to control dust that is at times visible from the town of Sparwood.

Trail Operations

In 2017, construction of a new acid plant advanced, which will help to reduce SO2 emissions relative to the existing plant it is replacing. In 2017, the annual average lead in community air was 0.16 micrograms per cubic metre. This achieves and exceeds our 2018 Air Quality goal of 0.2 micrograms per cubic metre. The completed construction of the Smelter Recycle Building and additional dust management activities implemented on-site contributed to this improvement.

Monitoring and Reporting

The most material air quality issues relate to sulphur dioxide near our Trail Operations metallurgical facility, and to particulate emissions at our mining operations. 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 2017 were approximately 4,895 tonnes, compared to 4,712 tonnes in 2016. The change in emissions from 2016 to 2017 was due in large part to process and production variability at Trail Operations.

Table 33: Sulphur Dioxide Emissions from Stacks, Stationary and Mobile Fossil Fuel Combustion (tonnes)(2),(3),(4)

Operation

2017

2016

2015

2014

Cardinal River

3.6

7.6

2.9

7.5

Coal Mountain

1.4

3.5

0.1

0.1

Elkview

6.4

5.4

0.6

0.1

Fording River

21.7

3.6

1.2

2.3

Greenhills

4.7

4.5

2.7

36.8

Highland Valley Copper(1)

2.1

1.6

36.0

37.0

Line Creek

2.1

1.1

0.3

0.3

Pend Oreille

4.7

4.4

3.8

0

Quebrada Blanca

33.7

18.8

385.1

178.3

Trail

4,814.0

4,665.0

4,069.5

3,923.9

Total

4,894.4

4,717.9

4,504.8

4,187.8

(1) From 2013 to 2015, Highland Valley Copper’s SO2 emissions included those from blasting.
(2) Information current at time of publication. However, values will be added, confirmed and/or changed once regulatory reporting for the 2017 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.

The primary way we are working towards reducing sulphur dioxide emissions at Trail is through the construction of our new acid plant. This new plant will reduce sulphur dioxide emissions from zinc operations, although total emissions will vary year to year, based on production. Construction is on schedule and the plant is expected to be operational in the summer of 2019.

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. 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, vehicle traffic, firewood burning, forest fires and waste burning.

The information contained in the tables below summarizes the ambient air quality during 2017 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 all of the stations listed in Table 34, the annual average concentration of PM2.5 was below the World Health Organization (WHO) Guideline value of 10 μg/m3. For the annual average concentration of PM10 at the stations listed in Table 35, three of the stations were below the WHO Guideline value of 20 μg/m3.

Table 34: Ambient Particulate Matter of Size Less Than 2.5 Microns (µg/m³)

Station

Nearest Operation

2017

2016

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Urmeneta

Carmen de Andacollo

8.15

14.12

9.67

15.58

Downtown Sparwood

Elkview

5.23

21.33

4.69

14.46

Elkford High School

Greenhills

6.79

48.56

3.58

8.03

 
Table 35: Ambient Particulate Matter of Size Less Than 10 Microns (µg/m³)

Station

Nearest Operation

2017

2016

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Urmeneta

Carmen de Andacollo

28.57

51.03

37.14

70.00

Downtown Sparwood

Elkview

14.14

44.39

10.79

32.07

Elkford High School

Greenhills

10.29

45.98(1)

6.97

19.05

Butler Park

Trail

17.68

54.27

18.21

38.35

(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.
 

Collaborating with Communities and Partners to Improve Air Quality

In 2017, community grievances reported through our feedback mechanisms regarding perceived or actual environmental impacts continue to be largely related to air quality concerns 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. Engagement with communities at the following three operations was largely focused on addressing air quality concerns.

  • At our Carmen de Andacollo Operations, the communities team engaged with local residents to address their concerns regarding dust generated from operating activities. In addition, a public website was developed to provide PM10 monitoring results.

  • At our steelmaking coal operations in the Elk Valley, we engaged communities through newsletters and open houses to report on our air quality performance. This included updates on dust management activities and progress towards meeting the social engagement requirements of the Baldy Ridge Extension permit.

  • At our Trail Operations, we continued leadership on the Trail Area Health & Environment Program, with a focus on working towards our commitments to reduce lead emissions to air through operational controls applied at the operation.

Outlook for Air Quality

Managing air quality will continue to be an integral part of the environmental management activities at our operations. In 2018, we will continue to evaluate more effective forms of dust suppressant for haul roads and tailings facilities, conduct models to better understand air emissions, develop dust response plans at Elkview Operations, install a monitoring station at our Line Creek Operations to better gauge impact to Grave Lake and install an additional station in the community of Sparwood. We will continue the construction of the new acid plant at Trail Operations and identify other operational controls to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions.

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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.