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Water Stewardship

Water management, water-related risks, and performance related to total and new water use, water recycled and reused, water intensity, and company-wide water balance.

GRI Indicators
303-103, 303-1, 303-3, 306-103, 306-1

Water Stewardship

Water is a vital global resource for all ecosystems and for a growing human population. Readily accessible fresh water, which accounts for less than 1% of the world’s water supply, is increasingly under pressure. Since 2015, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation has motivated countries and organizations alike to work to improve the management, protection and restoration of the world’s fresh water ecosystem in an integrated way.4

Mining companies demonstrate leadership in water stewardship by using water efficiently, maintaining water quality, and engaging with communities to collaboratively manage a shared water resource throughout the mining life cycle. Leadership in water stewardship is a priority for Teck. Communities with whom we share watersheds care about access to sufficient quantities of clean water for health, quality of life, economic well-being and the preservation of the local environment, and we share those values. That is why we are working to protect water quality, improve water use efficiency and engage with communities of interest on watershed management.

In 2018, Teck helped advance the dialogue on water stewardship in mining by working with the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) on best practices and by implementing our Water Policy through a new Water Governance framework at our operations. We also released two new water targets, focused on reducing the use of fresh water in water-stressed regions and reducing significant water-related incidents.

We also made progress in our implementation of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan to maintain the health of the watershed where a number of steelmaking coal operations are located. This work included upgrading the West Line Creek Active Water Treatment Facility and advancing construction of a second active water treatment facility at our Fording River Operations, and advancing a new method of water treatment using saturated rock fills.

Why does water matter? UN Environment


Our Approach to Water Stewardship

In 2017, we released a new Water Policy and established a Water Governance framework for improving water stewardship across Teck. Our Water Policy outlines our commitment to apply consistently strong and transparent water governance, to manage water at operations efficiently and effectively, and to collaborate to achieve responsible and sustainable water use. It defines a consistent company-wide approach to how we manage the risks and realize the opportunities related to water.

The Board of Directors, through its Safety and Sustainability Committee, 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 water management:

  • 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 water management

  • The Vice President, Environment, oversees compliance with environmental standards for projects, operations and our legacy properties, and regularly reviews environmental performance risks and strategic issues, including water


Teck’s bonus compensation structure is based on objectives outlined through three components: corporate, business unit and personal. Across the three components, objectives related to sustainability performance (HSEC topics) affect approximately 10%–20% of the bonus as a whole. The business unit component for operations has three metrics: production (33.3%), cost (33.3%) and sustainability (33.3%) of the specific operation.

Particular members of Teck's management team are also incentivized to manage sustainability-related issues, which can include water stewardship, primarily through the personal component of the bonus plan. In addition, all members of our senior management team have at least 5% of their annual total target bonus based on sustainability performance.

We work with various local, national and international organizations and programs to support improvements in water stewardship across the industry:

We are working to be a leader in water stewardship by moving beyond compliance and towards collaborative water management practices that focus on sustaining and restoring water resources. Our approach to water management is based on three key elements: protecting water quality, improving water use efficiency and engaging collaboratively within our watersheds.

Protecting Water Quality

A key component to how we manage water quality at each operation is to ensure compliance with applicable standards, regulations and permits. The other key component, beyond compliance, is undertaking aquatic life and ecosystem assessments that use scientifically rigorous evaluations and projections for ecosystem health.

Our practices include frequent monitoring of existing and reference conditions, and planning for future conditions, so that we can manage the risks and realize the opportunities related to water. As part of our practices, we report on water quality measurements and trends to relevant authorities, and adaptively manage our activities.

Each region has specific water quality considerations. For example, we actively manage water quality in the Elk Valley region of British Columbia, where Teck operates five steelmaking coal operations, and we are implementing a groundwater remediation plan at our Trail Operations in British Columbia.

Improving Water Use Efficiency

We continuously work on optimizing our water use and thereby minimizing our impact. We focus on reducing our fresh water intake and maximizing the reuse of water to reduce impacts on water availability at our operations in water-scarce regions.

Each operation maintains a Water Management Plan (WMP), which is a central aspect of our water management strategy. Annually, we update WMPs in conjunction with the update of each operation’s water balance. The plans describe how the operation fits into the local watershed and its associated regulatory context. WMPs also describe how we manage water now and in the future, in order to:

  • Contribute to meeting our water goals

  • Provide direction and strategy to address water management risks and challenges

  • Establish how water management infrastructure performance will be monitored and reviewed

Site-wide water balances at each operation provide an understanding of water inputs, consumption, and reuse/recycle and discharge volumes at each operation. We use water balances as a decision-making tool to assess water management alternatives, to evaluate an operation’s water management performance and to provide water data for our company-wide reporting.


We monitor and model local groundwater sources to determine rates of drawdown and ensure long-term protection of these water sources. Forecasts of future availability and use are developed to guide decision-making and to ensure the aquifers are protected for the benefit of local water users in the future.

Engaging Collaboratively Within our Watersheds

Access to clean and sufficient water by users in our areas of influence is important to us and to our stakeholders. When implementing our water management practices, we consider and engage with other water users in the watersheds to promote water stewardship at all of our operations. As part of this process, we are incorporating the approach defined in ICMM’s guide to catchment-based water management to identify, evaluate and respond to water-related risks and opportunities in our watersheds.

One example of a watershed-based approach is in the Elk Valley, where five of our steelmaking coal operations are located, and where we actively engage stakeholders in the implementation of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan.

Management in Water-Stressed Regions

Our Carmen de Andacollo and Quebrada Blanca operations, which are located in regions where water is scare, track and monitor their water use. Viable water use and supply options are considered when planning major projects and assessing potential expansions or extensions. A broad range of scenarios is developed and assessed, including, for example, the use of desalinated water at our Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 project.

At Carmen de Andacollo Operations, Teck is a member of the Pan de Azúcar Mesa Hidrica, a regional group of stakeholders for the management of common water issues, and was central to the creation of the Culcatan Mesa Hidrica, which are multi-stakeholder forums to manage water in water-stressed areas.

In 2018, we introduced two new water targets as part of our commitment towards water stewardship:

  1. Reduce fresh water use at our Chilean operations by 15% by 2020

  2. Zero significant water-related incidents each year

Our sustainability strategy also includes further water goals as follows.

By 2020, we will:

  • Contribute to watershed management in water-stressed regions through water use efficiency projects, use of alternative water sources, water quality improvement measures, and capacity building

  • Increase our understanding of groundwater and proactively assess groundwater risks

  • Collaborate in developing innovative water technology and practice

By 2030, we will:

  • Work within an informed understanding of ecological limits, regional issues and demands on water resources to address:

    • Water quality: Keep clean water clean, minimize water quality deterioration and take care of affected water resources

    • Water quantity: Minimize water use per unit of production and transition to alternative water sources

    • Water stewardship: Contribute to water use planning in our areas of influence

Table 1: Water Stewardship Internal and External Audits

Type Organization Items Audited
External International Council on Mining and Metals: Sustainability Report assurance

New water use

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. 

Water Targets

Teck’s approach to water stewardship and our new Water Policy commits us to applying a consistent approach to water management and to being effective water stewards at our operations and in the watersheds where we operate.

A key component of our water strategy is setting new targets that are context-relevant and focus on our most important water challenges and opportunities.

We have set a company-wide target of zero significant water-related incidents, which is helping bring focus to the work underway across Teck to address water quality challenges.

And in Chile, where our operations and major projects are located in regions where water is a scarce resource, we’ve set an ambitious goal to reduce our freshwater consumption by 15% by 2020.

Water Targets By The Numbers

Our Performance in Water Stewardship in 2018

Our Approach to Water Stewardship

We have long recognized that water stewardship is an important sustainability challenge and a significant opportunity. In 2018, we refined our approach to water stewardship to deepen our focus on water, drive measurable improvements at our operations and embed water stewardship into all of our activities. The objectives of this work are to track and improve our water quality performance and water use efficiency, and minimize our water costs so we can respond better to watershed needs.

As illustrated in Figure 9, our approach to water stewardship is embodied in our Water Policy and is implemented through our Water Governance framework, which defines how we govern and improve our current water performance. In support of our Water Governance framework, we have developed additional water guidance and continue to rely on our Health, Safety, Environment and Community (HSEC) Management Standards.

Our new targets for water, established in 2018, are to reduce the consumption of fresh water at our Chilean operations by 15% by 2020 and to achieve zero significant water-related incidents each year. This year, we met our target of zero significant water-related incidents. We also started implementing water projects at our Chilean operations intended to reduce fresh water use to help us achieve our 2020 target.

The Water Governance framework and water goals and targets provide the mechanisms to realize the commitments in our Water Policy which includes our commitment to apply consistently strong and transparent water governance, to manage water at operations efficiently and effectively, and to collaborate to achieve responsible and sustainable water use.

Figure 9: Our Approach to Water Stewardship

Protecting Water Quality

Throughout the year, we continued to monitor water quality and implemented controls to mitigate risks, including the implementation of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. In addition, as part of our sustainability strategy water goals, our Highland Valley Copper, Red Dog and Carmen de Andacollo operations continued development of site-wide groundwater models. At our Quebrada Blanca Operations, we continued construction of a multi-layer groundwater interception system, which will remain in place for Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 (QB2).

Managing Water Quality in the Elk Valley

We continue to implement water quality management measures to meet the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (EVWQP), which was approved in 2014 by the B.C. Minister of Environment. The goal of the EVWQP is to stabilize and reverse the increasing trend of mine-related constituents, and to ensure the health of the watershed is maintained while allowing for continued sustainable mining in the region where five of our steelmaking coal operations are located. The plan establishes short-, medium- and long-term water quality targets, which are protective of the environment and human health, for selenium, nitrate, sulphate and cadmium, as well as a plan to manage calcite formation.

Water Treatment Facilities

The EVWQP includes design and construction of several active water treatment facilities. The first of these facilities, the West Line Creek Active Water Treatment Facility, has completed recommissioning following treatment process improvements that were required to address the forms of selenium remaining in the treated water discharge and is now ramping up to a full treatment capacity of 7.5 million litres of water per day. In 2018 we started construction of our second water treatment facility, the Fording River South Active Water Treatment Facility, which is expected to be operational in 2020 with a full treatment capacity of 20 million litres of water per day.

We are also developing a new method of water treatment within saturated rock fills (SRFs); read more in this case study. We currently have more than 20 R&D projects underway related to water quality in the Elk Valley, including projects to better control release of water quality constituents at source and to develop new water treatment methods.

Monitoring Aquatic Health

Teck conducts ongoing aquatic health studies and monitoring in the Elk Valley. Making this information broadly available helps advance community knowledge and understanding, and can accelerate the pace of scientific progress and innovation. Our monitoring activities include:

  • Regular water quality monitoring at more than 100 surface water stations

  • Quarterly regional groundwater monitoring at 37 wells

  • Monitoring of aquatic health through our Regional Aquatic Effects Monitoring Program and Local Aquatic Effects Monitoring Programs, which includes monitoring water quality, sediment quality and calcite; periphyton (algae); benthic invertebrates (bugs); and fish. In some cases, monitoring also includes birds and amphibians.

Annual reports about this monitoring are prepared by professional scientists and represent the knowledge developed since the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan was approved in 2014. The reports have been reviewed by the Environmental Monitoring Committee (EMC), a group that provides science-based and Ktunaxa traditional knowledge advice and input to Teck and the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy regarding monitoring designs and reports in the Elk Valley. The committee includes representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy; Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources; Ktunaxa Nation Council; Interior Health Authority; and Teck, as well as an independent scientist.

Teck is focused on continued monitoring and research, and on taking the necessary steps to implement the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. Read the 2018 Environmental Monitoring Committee Report for more information.

Community Engagement on Water

Access to clean and sufficient water by users in our areas of influence is important to us and to our stakeholders. When implementing our water management practices, we consider and engage with other water users in the watersheds where we operate. In 2018, we held two open houses in the Elk Valley for members of the community to learn more about our work on water quality in the watershed, as well as new technologies being implemented to improve water performance.

Improving Water Efficiency

We track water data for all our operations using site-wide water balances5. The company-wide water balance is complex, due to the variability of natural factors such as rainfall, snowmelt, and the diversity of the climates and geological conditions where our operations are located. Understanding our water balance is key to improve water management practices and to enable better decision-making.

In 2018, we updated our water data collection and reporting to align with the ICMM’s Practical guide to consistent water reporting. Our detailed water data is provided in our 2018 Sustainability Performance Data spreadsheet. 

Figure 10: Company-Wide Water Balance (million m3)

Key water performance metrics include total water use, water reused and water recycled. In 2018, 58% of our total water use was from reused/recycled water. Water reused and recycled, expressed as a percentage of new water use, was 136% across the company. At our mining operations only (this excludes Trail Operations) this was 291%— which means reusing the same water approximately three times on average before returning that water to the environment.

Our 2018 water performance was primarily affected by a wetter than average year at Highland Valley Copper operations that resulted in a significant volume of new water added into the process water circuit, a dredging campaign at our Fording River Operations that used additional new water, and improvements in accounting for new water at Red Dog Operations.

Table 10: Water Used, Reused and Recycled






Total water use (m3) (1)





New water use (m3)





Water reused/recycled (m3) (1)





Reused/recycled as % of new water use(1),(2)





1 The figures for 2017 have been restated due to improvements in some operations’ water accounting.
2 The percentage calculation is based on the total volume of water reused/recycled divided by the total volume of new water used.

Trail Operations accounts for 23% of our total water use and 53% of our new water use. Almost all of the water used at our Trail is for cooling purposes, meaning that it does not come into contact with chemicals or reagents, and the only change it undergoes is a slight increase in temperature before being returned to the environment within regulatory-approved conditions. We track this water separately from the data for our mining operations.

Figure 11 illustrates the new water use and total water use trends over the past four years. We continue to focus on improving our practices and increasing our reuse/recycle water use to meet our water needs.

Figure 11: Total and New Water Use (m3)


Water Intensity

We benchmark our water performance on the basis of a new water use intensity metric, as shown in Tables 11 and 12. Our new water use intensity is defined as the annual volume of new water used per unit of material processed by our steelmaking coal operations and by our milling and flotation operations. These water metrics allow us to more consistently evaluate our water use performance, independent of variations in annual precipitation and ore grades. In addition, these metrics allow us to make informed water management decisions and prioritize improvement projects at our operations.

Table 11: New Water Use Intensity at Coal Operations

Coal Operations(1)






New water use (million m3)





Raw coal processed (tonnes)





New water use intensity (m3/tonne)





1Includes Cardinal River, Coal Mountain, Elkview, Fording River, Greenhills and Line Creek operations.


Table 12: New Water Use Intensity at Milling and Flotation Operations

Milling and Flotation Operations(1)






New water use (million m3)





Ore processed (tonnes)





New water use intensity (m3/tonne)





1Includes Red Dog, Pend Oreille, Highland Valley Copper and Carmen de Andacollo operations.

Our 2018 new water use intensity metrics showed that our steelmaking coal operations increased relative to 2017, and that our base metal milling and flotation operations also increased relative to 2017. The increase in new water use intensity at our coal operations and at our milling and flotation operations is primarily due to improvements in our water data collection.

For Quebrada Blanca and Trail operations, an intensity metric for new water use is not meaningful because the volume of new water used at both operations is largely independent of the quantity of material processed or produced. Therefore, we assess our water performance at these operations based on the absolute amount of new water used.


Table 13: New Water Use at Quebrada Blanca and Trail Operations (million m3)






Quebrada Blanca (water used primarily in metal leaching process)





Trail (water used primarily for cooling)





5Site-wide water balances provide an understanding of water inputs, consumption, reuse/recycle and discharge volumes at each operation. Water balances are developed using a mix of measurements and modelling computation.

Outlook for Water Stewardship

In 2019, we will continue the work of implementing our approach to water stewardship, with a focus on achieving our water goals and two water targets: reducing fresh water consumption at our Chilean operations and achieving zero significant water-related incidents across Teck. We will also continue to implement the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan by advancing construction of an active water treatment facility at our Fording River Operations. In addition, we will continue with our research on saturated rock fill technology to better understand the capabilities and limitations of this technology and how it can complement our approach to water management company-wide. Additionally, we will advance construction of the desalination plant for our Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 project.


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