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Environmental Management

Overall day-to-day environmental management, compliance with environmental regulations, compliance with permits, supplier environmental assessments, and transportation.

GRI Indicators
102-34, 304-103, 305-103, 306-103, 306-3, 307-103, 307-1, 308-103, 308-1, 308-2

Why was Environmental Management a Material Topic in 2015?

Comprehensive environmental management is essential for businesses to mitigate their impacts on the environment while enhancing economic and social development. Management systems and regulations are required to establish environmental practices and set the expectations for performance. Environmental management includes all of the policies, procedures and practices that a company uses to comply with environmental requirements, minimize environmental impacts and improve environmental performance. Several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, such as Goal 6 on water management, Goal 13 on climate change and Goal 14 on biodiversity, outline activities and targets related to environmental management. 

Due to the physical disturbance of the land, generation of air- and water-based emissions, use of resources, and associated production processes, mining has the potential to adversely impact the environment. Many of these impacts can be mitigated or even avoided through proper management and planning. Effective management requires that mining companies recognize and address the interrelated nature of many environmental and social issues, the cumulative nature of many environmental impacts, the need to look at different impacts across the mining life cycle and value chain, and the potential vulnerability of ecosystems as a whole. 

Proper environmental management is a major component of permitting and meeting regulatory requirements and, as legislation becomes more stringent, the cost to business is increasing. Mining and metals companies have also never faced so much regulation as today in multiple jurisdictions(*).

*Ernst & Young, “Business Risks in Mining and Metals 2016–2017”.

Responsible environmental management is an integral part of who we are as a company; it is embedded in Teck’s values through our commitment to sustainability, as well as in our Code of Sustainable Conduct and Charter of Corporate Responsibility. Beyond our core values, we also work in highly regulated jurisdictions with stringent and rigorously applied environmental legislation, which also makes environmental management a key compliance issue. Changes in environmental laws may have a material effect on our operations, both in terms of effort required to receive permits and investments required to achieve and maintain compliance.

Sound environmental management is an important component of regulatory compliance and permitting. This is particularly critical as permitting processes become more complex due to increased regulatory requirements, societal expectations, and interconnectivity of communities through technology. Successfully acquiring major regulatory approvals remained a key strategic priority across our business units in 2016. 

Environmental management is also very important to our COIs. In 2016, the majority of our community grievances were related to environmental concerns. Demonstrating that we have robust environmental management can help build trust in local communities. Strong environmental management also allows us to avoid regulatory fines, project delays and/or material impacts on operations. For more information about community grievances and how they are tracked, please see the Community Engagement page. 


Performance Highlights

In 2016, Elkview and Highland Valley Copper Operations received the Towards Sustainable Mining Leadership Award from the Mining Association of Canada. This is an award for mining operations that demonstrate, through management actions and overall results, a strong commitment to excellence in environmental and community performance. 



Evaluating the Environmental Management Practices of Our Suppliers 

We established our Recommended Protocols for Suppliers and Service Providers in 2012, communicated the expectations contained within these Protocols to major suppliers, and integrated the Protocols into our procurement and contract processes. The Protocols include expectations to address issues relating to ethics, health and safety, environmental stewardship, and human rights, including numerous labour law requirements. 

To strengthen the utility and impact of the Protocols, as well as inform the development of our Supply Chain Risk Management Strategy, in 2014 we undertook additional engagement with a selection of our major suppliers through a pilot questionnaire to create greater mutual understanding of expectations, performance, and potential risks and impacts of our suppliers. 

In 2015, we expanded the questionnaire to 40 suppliers and service providers. Suppliers ranged in nature from small family-run businesses to railways and multinational organizations. No major issues were uncovered in our evaluation of supplier responses to the questionnaire. Where suppliers had questions, support was provided to them to assist in reporting. We will continue the assessments into 2016 and expand on the lessons learned from this process.

Our Targets and Commitments

We are committed to conducting regular audits of our sites on our environmental compliance. We develop corrective action plans based on findings, and we regularly assess the implementation of these plans.
We have set a target to have zero significant environmental spills each year.


What is Teck’s Approach to Environmental Management?

Our HSEC Management Standards and our environmental audit program help drive continual improvement and assessment of compliance with environmental regulations. The standards provide a consistent and systematic methodology for the identification and effective management of HSEC issues and risks, and provide a platform to support continual improvement in HSEC programs and performance. The standards are supported by guidance documents specific to technical areas such as management and performance around tailings, water, biodiversity and a number of other key technical areas.  

Since 2009, we have worked towards certification of environmental management systems to conform to the internationally recognized ISO 14001 standard. ISO 14001 certification requires external verification through third-party audits conducted by accredited certification service providers. To date, 10 of our 12 operations have attained and maintained certification. Pend Oreille and Quebrada Blanca operations are not yet certified. 

Our licence to operate depends on our ability to meet legal compliance requirements and demonstrate value to both shareholders and communities. We continually monitor and manage the social and environmental aspects of our activities in order to meet or exceed regulations and to ensure regulatory compliance and performance. This helps us obtain and maintain approvals to operate and to grow our business. 

We engage directly and indirectly (through industry groups) with governments and regulators to help ensure that permitting processes are practical and effective in meeting their objective of protecting the local environment and communities. Once permits are granted, our environmental assurance program verifies that we continue to meet all relevant requirements. 

We track our environmental permits and requirements, and the management of those requirements, such as discharge monitoring, in our task management system called SiteLine. Teck is also obligated to respond to government orders such as the development and implementation of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan

Our Health, Safety and Environment assurance program is designed to verify that requirements are met, as dictated by the applicable permits, legislation and regulations in each jurisdiction. We conduct compliance audits on a three-year rotational basis for all operations, and plans are developed to address the findings based on risk priority criteria. In 2016, we implemented a risk-based auditing approach and enhanced post-audit communication to focus on the most significant health, safety and environment risks.
Our expectation is that corrective actions on significant findings are to be completed promptly, but no later than two years after completion of the audit, as confirmed by a mid-term effectiveness check. We monitor and report to our HSEC Risk Management Committee on the progress of our assurance program on a quarterly basis. We also conduct external verification for the purpose of regulatory or external commitments. Table 49 provides an overview of the types of audits and evaluations that are conducted across our operations. We conduct third-party audits to assess regulatory compliance on a regular basis. 

Table 49: Internal and External Audits of Environmental Management


What is audited?

For whom?

Evaluation criteria


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

Adherence to regulatory and permit requirements; effectiveness of controls based on risk profile

HSEC Risk Management Committee


Legal obligations, internal standards

Follow-up effectiveness check

Validate effectiveness of closure of findings two years after initial audit

Action plans from past audit findings

Risk reviews

Control of significant risks

Internal standards

ISO 14001 internal audits

Components of the environmental management system at each site

Site Management

ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Standard


Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) audit

External verification of site data reported to TSM

Mining Association of Canada (MAC)

TSM Protocols

Sustainability Report assurance

External assurance of report, data and practices

International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)

ICMM Assurance Procedure

GHG Regulation Assurance

Validation of GHG data reported and quantification of methodologies

Alberta and B.C. governments

Quantification methodologies defined by regulation

ISO 14001 external audits

Components of the environmental management system at each site

International Organization for Standardization

ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Standard


We conduct a wide array of measurements to manage and evaluate our environmental performance. We monitor a range of environmental data, including:

  • Emissions to air
  • Ambient air quality, including particulate matter levels
  • Noise levels
  • Geotechnical information related to pit walls and water retention structures
  • Environmental incidents 
  • Water quality (surface water, groundwater and permitted discharges to receiving water)
  • Biodiversity (including land reclamation)
  • Energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Material use and recycling information

As required, we develop corrective action plans based on findings from monitoring, and we regularly assess the implementation of these plans.


An incident is an unintended event that, in the vast majority of cases, is immediately managed and has no significant environmental implications. All our operations have control measures in place to minimize the likelihood of environmental incidents and to mitigate potential effects on the environment in case an incident does occur. Control measures include facility design considerations, spill containment measures, meters, alarms, standard operating procedures, training, regular inspections, and the identification of potential issues through internal risk assessments and audits. Significant environmental incidents are investigated to identify the root causes, and we implement remedial measures and corrective actions. We also share learnings across Teck from any significant environmental incidents to reduce the potential for future occurrences.


What was Our Performance in Environmental Management in 2016?

In this section, Teck reports on our environmental compliance and learnings from significant environmental incidents. We also disclose our involvement in environmental litigation, fines and penalties, and our progress on permits and approvals. 

Regulation, Permitting and Approvals

Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 Project Social and Environmental Impact Assessment

In September 2016, Teck submitted, as part of the regulatory process, the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) for our Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 project (QB Phase 2) in northern Chile to the Region of Tarapacá Environmental Authority. The proposed QB Phase 2 project extends the life of the existing mine as a large-scale concentrate-producing operation. The updated feasibility study, including capital and operating cost estimates for the project, was completed in the first quarter of 2017. A decision to proceed with development is contingent upon market conditions and receipt of regulatory approvals, among other considerations. Given the timeline of the regulatory process, such a decision is not expected before mid-2018.

Elkview Operations

Our Elkview Operations was granted an environmental assessment certificate for the Baldy Ridge Extension project, which is expected to extend the life of the operation by 30 years. First steelmaking coal production is planned for early 2018.

Environmental Compliance

Compliance across all our operations remained high in 2016. Our response to significant non-compliance incidents is discussed in the Significant Environmental Incidents section below.

Table 50: Permit and Regulatory Non-Compliances






Permit Non-Compliances





Regulatory Non-Compliances





The number of permit non-compliances has decreased due to more rigorous internal monitoring and measures in place to control total suspended solids (TSS) concentrations in the routine operation and maintenance of settling ponds and monitored streams, particularly during freshet and high-rainfall events. Regulatory non-compliances increased due to missed monitoring events, elevated TSS events associated with project commissioning, and improved internal modelling of effluent characteristics, which improved our ability to detect non-compliances. Despite the number of regulatory non-compliances increasing, the severity of environmental incidents has decreased.

Significant Environmental Incidents

We assess the severity of environmental incidents based on their potential environmental, safety, legal, community, reputational and financial impacts. Based on our incident severity criteria, two environmental incidents across all our projects and operations occurred in 2016 that were of greater significance.

Leachate Solution Release at Trail Operations

In April 2016, Trail Operations experienced a discharge of solution from a leachate collection system associated with a historic engineered landfill. An underground line conveying the leachate was compromised at a welded joint, resulting in the release of approximately 100 cubic metres (m3) to the ground and to Stoney Creek via surface runoff. An assessment concluded that there was no long-term impact on aquatic life at Stoney Creek or on the Columbia River. 

Concentrate Spill at Red Dog Operations

In December 2016, a trailer carrying zinc concentrate at the Red Dog site left the haul road, resulting in the release of approximately 65 tonnes of concentrate to the tundra on NANA land. Cleanup was initiated with the permission of NANA. All work was undertaken with full approval of the regulator. 

Environmental Litigation 

Upper Columbia River Litigation 

Environmental litigation regarding the Upper Columbia River and involving the Confederated Colville Tribes and the Spokane Tribe of Indians continues. For more information, see the Upper Columbia River Project page

Charges, Fines and Penalties

In February 2016, Teck Metals was assessed a penalty for five charges under the Fisheries Act and the Environmental Management Act relating to 13 accidental discharge incidents at Teck’s Trail Operations between November 2013 and February 2015. These incidents involved the discharge of effluent with elevated levels of copper, zinc, ammonia, chlorine and cadmium. Teck Metals was assessed a total penalty of $3.4 million. All of the incidents were self-reported non-compliances, of which only one constituted an exceedance of our daily allowable permitted discharge limit. No impact on the Columbia River was measured or noted for any of the incidents. More detailed reviews conducted following each incident confirmed there was no human health risk and no indication of any long-term impact on fish or the environment. In addition to specific preventative measures implemented following each occurrence, Trail Operations has implemented enhanced training and processes, and is improving facilities to provide greater control over these kinds of incidents.

In March 2016, the Environmental Department of the Government of Chile issued the results of their investigation stemming from the findings associated with inspections conducted at Carmen de Andacollo Operations in 2013 and 2014. Three of the five charges previously laid were dismissed, while two charges resulted in a total penalty of US$60,000. The site has since restructured its Environmental Department and is dedicated to making sure that environmental data is available, monitored for trends, and communicated to the authorities as appropriate. The site has also enhanced its tracking of legal requirements and voluntary commitments.

In the third quarter of 2016, Red Dog Operations accepted the state of Alaska’s settlement offer of $142,248 in relation to the December 2015 Notice of Violation for alleged air permit violations related to generator exhaust opacity and failure to test for carbon monoxide emissions.

In January 2017, Teck received three charges under the Fisheries Act in relation to the fish mortality incident that occurred in the area of the water treatment works at the West Line Creek Active Water Treatment Facility at our Line Creek Operations in October 2014. At the time of the incident, a detailed investigation was undertaken. This resulted in the implementation of extensive measures to prevent a reoccurrence, including improved monitoring and incident response programs, additional process controls, and creation of an effluent buffer pond to allow early identification and management of process upsets before discharge to the receiving environment.

Outlook for Environmental Management

In 2017, we will continue to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of our environmental management practices through our assurance program, and will continue to address findings and amend practices as required. We will also continue to improve our environmental safeguards and prevent reoccurrence of environmental incidents on a site-by-site basis as required. We will also focus on enhancing our management systems to enable compliance with the many obligations under newly issued permits and commitments such as those related to the Baldy Ridge Expansion, Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 and the upcoming closure at Coal Mountain Operations. Finally, we will enhance our capacity to share learnings and identify best practice by further strengthening our internal Environmental Community of Practice.

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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.