Purge This Page

Teck Logo

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

Economic growth can be accompanied by an increase in air pollution, which impacts human health and ecosystems. With better knowledge, alternative consumption and production models, as well as innovative technological solutions, many countries, cities and businesses are now successfully reducing air pollution.16

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, nearby 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. As such, air quality issues require close collaboration with local stakeholders. In 2018, we embraced and are continuing to explore numerous initiatives across our operations to improve air quality.

16 Towards a Pollution-Free Planet. UN Environment Assembly. 2017.

Our Approach to Air Quality

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.

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. 

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 and Greenhills operations, these efforts are focused on ambient air quality monitoring, while at Carmen de Andacollo and Trail operations, 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. 

 

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

Table 1: Air Quality Audits

Type

Organization

Items Audited

External

International Council on Mining and Metals: Sustainability Report assurance

SO2 emissions

Percentage of selected community-based air quality stations with annual mean concentrations of ambient PM2.5 within World Health Organization guidelines

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

Our Performance in Air Quality in 2018

Minimizing Emissions to Improve Air Quality

In 2018, we implemented measures to minimize impacts on the local air quality within the vicinity of our activities. 

Table 31: Air Quality Improvements in 2018

Operation

Air Quality Improvement

Elk Valley

At our steelmaking coal operations in the Elk Valley, we engaged communities through newsletters and open houses to report on our air quality performance. In addition, a new ambient air quality monitoring station was installed in Sparwood Heights to better understand the impacts of our operations on the community so that we are better able to adjust our site activities to manage those impacts.

We conducted dust management activities and evaluated more than 50 air quality improvement initiatives across the Elk Valley. Programs that are currently being piloted include modelling to evaluate the effectiveness of various mitigation techniques on areas that are susceptible to wind erosion, the application of water to blast patterns prior to blasting, and the use of technology to reduce or eliminate the need for a coal dryer. Additional information on our efforts is here.

Trail

We continued to implement dust management initiatives to support additional reductions in the level of metals in ambient air in our surrounding community. Activities undertaken in 2018 include the installation of a wind fence to reduce dust from the area where concentrates are mixed, as well as the use of a new road dust monitoring tool that is helping to identify areas of higher dusting and enable more effective mitigation.

Carmen de Andacollo

With the achievement of a 78% reduction in PM10 emissions from 2010 to 2017, we continued to evaluate opportunities to further reduce fugitive dust. We are partnering with industry peers and research organizations to find and implement innovative solutions and to evaluate different atmospheric variables and conditions across various mining activities. The communities team also engaged with local residents to address their concerns regarding dust generated from operating activities. 

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. 

As shown in Table 32, sulphur dioxide emissions from stacks and fossil fuel emissions in 2018 were approximately 3,659 tonnes, compared to 4,894 tonnes in 2017. The decrease in emissions in 2018 was primarily due to a scheduled maintenance shutdown at Trail Operations.

Table 32: Sulphur Dioxide Emissions from Stacks, Stationary and Mobile Fossil Fuel Combustion (tonnes)(2),(3),(4)

Operation

2018

2017

2016

2015

Cardinal River

4.9

3.6

7.6

2.9

Coal Mountain

1.1

1.4

3.5

0.1

Elkview

6.2

6.4

5.4

0.6

Fording River

15.8

21.7

3.6

1.2

Greenhills

4.6

4.7

4.5

2.7

Highland Valley Copper(1)

1.8

2.1

1.6

36.0

Line Creek

1.2

2.1

1.1

0.3

Pend Oreille

6.3

4.7

4.4

3.8

Quebrada Blanca

19.5

33.7

18.8

385.1

Trail

3,598.0

4,814.0

4,665.0

4,069.5

Total

3,659.4

4,894.4

4,717.9

4,504.8

(1) In 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 2018 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. 

In 2018, operations continued training related to fugitive dust management in their orientation and refresher programs. Specific training sessions were also held with the Vancouver Project Development Group to raise awareness of early stage project decisions on potential for fugitive dust emissions from operations.

Tables 33 and 34 summarize the ambient air quality during 2018 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 33, 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 34, half of the stations were below the WHO Guideline value of 20 μg/m3. The primary cause of increased particulate matter at stations near our British Columbia-based operations in 2018 was due to forest fires in the region.
 

Table 33: Ambient Particulate Matter of Size Less Than 2.5 Microns (µg/m³)

Station

Nearest Operation

2018

2017

2016

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Urmeneta

Carmen de Andacollo

8

12

8

14

10

16

Downtown Sparwood

Elkview

8

52(1)

5

21

5

14

Elkford High School

Greenhills

7

52(1)

7

49

4

8

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

Station

Nearest Operation

2018

2017

2016

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Average Annual

98th Percentile

Urmeneta

Carmen de Andacollo

33

51

29

51

37

70

Downtown Sparwood

Elkview

17

82

14

44

11

32

Elkford High School

Greenhills

11

57

10

46(1)

7

19

Butler Park

Trail

26

165

18

54

18

38

(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 2019, we will publicly provide via our website more detailed information on ambient air quality in the Elk Valley and performance against the British Columbia Ambient Air Quality Objectives as well as progress on projects that we are undertaking to manage fugitive dust. Across our operations, we will continue to 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. 

Teck Logo

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