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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

Global concerns regarding water availability and quality continue to increase. The World Economic Forum considers water to be a unique resource that underpins all drivers of growth. Ensuring that water is fairly allocated is an important issue, particularly in areas of water scarcity or where water quality can be negatively affected by human activity.

Ensuring the efficient use of water and the protection of water quality are essential in the mining industry for both the social licence and the regulatory licence to operate. Due to the large volumes of water used for mining processes, there is potential to affect water quality, which in turn can affect other water users. Mining companies can 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. In 2017, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) released a new position statement on water stewardship focused on strong and transparent corporate water governance, managing water at operations effectively, and collaborating to achieve responsible and sustainable water use. We are taking steps to align our practices with the position statement.

Leadership in water stewardship is a strategic priority for Teck. Communities with whom we share watersheds care about access to sufficient quantities of clean water for physical and spiritual health, quality of life, economic well-being and the preservation of the local environment, and we share those same values.

In 2017, we released a new Water Policy and established a Water Governance framework for improving water stewardship across our company. In addition, we continued our participation in the CEO Water Mandate, a United Nations Global Compact initiative that mobilizes business leaders to advance water stewardship, sanitation, and the Sustainable Development Goal 6 in partnership with the United Nations, governments, peers, civil society and others. Implementation of Teck’s Elk Valley Water Quality Plan also continued to be a key focus in 2017. We also continue to integrate water stewardship into community engagement and permitting activities across our operations.

(1) Position Statement on Water Stewardship. International Council on Mining and Metals. 2017

Teck's Approach to Water Stewardship

In the mining industry, water stewardship is a critical issue because processing mined materials typically uses large volumes of water and can also potentially affect water quality, which in turn can affect other water users. As a result, the industry can affect, and is affected by, issues of water availability and quality. Mine operations can demonstrate leadership in water stewardship by using water efficiently, maintaining water quality, and engaging with communities to collaboratively manage a shared water resource through the mining life cycle.

Recognizing this, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) published a position statement defining a common approach to water stewardship in 2016. ICMM members, including Teck, recognize that they have a significant role to play in creating a safer and more sustainable mining and metals industry.

Communities with whom we share watersheds care about access to sufficient quantities of clean water for physical and spiritual health, quality of life, economic well-being, and ecosystem health. We share these values, and our employees live in the same communities. Without adequate access to water, our operations could not function. Responsible water management is fundamental to maintaining the trust of our communities of interest. Teck recognizes that access to water is a human right and that water is essential to stakeholders in the watersheds where we operate.

We work to manage the amount of water we use and the quality of water as it leaves our operations and legacy properties. Water management is also a major strategic priority across every business unit in terms of meeting regulatory requirements and obtaining or maintaining permits. Water-related risks can impact both our ability to operate and our communities of interest, which is why stakeholder engagement on water management topics is essential.

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
     

Water management is part of our annual company objectives, especially in relation to our HSEC performance. HSEC performance is a factor in Teck’s bonus structure and affects from 15% to 20% of each department’s bonuses for all executives. In addition, the personal component of executive bonus ratings may include specific objectives related to community engagement.

Teck has developed a Water Policy and Governance Framework that was approved by the Board of Directors in November 2017. The 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 also states our commitment to integrating the cost of water into business decisions and to proactively assessing water risks in our supply and value chains. The policy and governance activities define a consistent company-wide approach to how we manage the risks and realize the opportunities related to water. 

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. Wherever possible, we work to “keep clean water clean”, but we realize that impacts can occur; our water management approach aims to limit and/or remediate those impacts. 

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 mitigate current and potential risks. 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. Each of our operations has completed a water management plan and a site-wide water balance, which are central components for improving our water use efficiency. We are focused 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. WMPs are updated annually 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 water is managed 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 provide an understanding of water inputs, consumption, and reuse/recycle and discharge volumes at each operation. Water balances are used 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. Understanding our water balance is key to improving water management practices and to enabling better decision-making.

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. Another example is at our Chilean operations where water is scarce: we have an ongoing dialogue with local partners and community members regarding water supply. 

Site-wide water balances provide an understanding of water inputs, consumption, and reuse/recycle and discharge volumes at each operation. Water balances are used 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. 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 we have our operations. These factors can affect the flows within aquifers and surface water. Understanding our water balance is key to improving water management practices and to enabling better decision-making.

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. 

Our Performance in Water Stewardship in 2017

Introducing our new Water Policy

We have long recognized that water is an important sustainability challenge. Moving forward, this challenge will continue to increase unless we find opportunities to improve our water stewardship and water use efficiency. Our longevity also requires us to be effective water stewards so we can maintain acceptance by the communities where we operate and build trust in the locations where we plan to develop projects. In response to these challenges, Teck’s Board of Directors approved a new Water Policy in November 2017 that commits us 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.

Protecting Water Quality

Throughout the year, we continued to monitor water quality and implement controls to mitigate risks. For example, we continued the construction of a multi-layer groundwater interception system at Quebrada Blanca Operations, began development of site-wide groundwater models at Highland Valley Copper, Red Dog and Carmen de Andacollo operations, began operation of a groundwater treatment facility at Trail Operations, and are continuing the implementation of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan, including construction of a full-scale trial of a saturated rock fill to reduce concentrations of selenium and nitrate.

Managing Water Quality in the Elk Valley

We continue to implement the water quality management measures under 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 to ensure the health of the watershed while allowing for continued sustainable mining in the region. 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. 

Monitoring Aquatic Health 

We are conducting extensive monitoring to improve our understanding of water quality and aquatic health. Our 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.

Active Water Treatment Facilities

We are implementing the EVWQP, which includes progressing design and construction of active water treatment facilities. Our first facility, the West Line Creek Active Water Treatment Facility (AWTF), was constructed at our Line Creek Operations, and we are advancing development of a Fording River Operations AWTF, planned for operation in 2021, and the Elkview Operations AWTF, planned for operation in 2022.

We have been working to address a challenge in the performance of our West Line Creek AWTF related to selenium compounds in discharge water. In late 2017, we completed the successful piloting of a new advanced oxidation process (AOP) that has been identified as a solution to this challenge. We are now preparing for full installation of the AOP at the water treatment facility, which is anticipated to be completed in summer 2018. 

In 2017, we constructed our full-scale trial saturated fill project at Elkview Operations at a total cost of $41 million and commissioned the project in January 2018. This alternative treatment strategy has the potential to replace active water treatment plants in the future and/or enhance our ability to meet the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. We also completed the successful installation and commissioning of our first calcite management system at Greenhills Operations to support our understanding of calcite treatment and prevent calcite precipitation in the environment downstream from our operations.

We plan to spend approximately $86 million on water treatment in 2018, taking into account facility design modifications as well as the engineering and commencement of construction of the Fording River AWTF. 

Based on our current plans, the total spend on water treatment in the Elk Valley from 2018 to 2022 is expected to be in the $850 to $900 million range. This includes completion of modifications to the Line Creek AWTF, the construction of the Fording River AWTF and two others in the Elk Valley, as well as the commencement of construction of a fifth AWTF.

See this page for more information.

Collaborating to Ensure Fair Allocation of 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. We promote water stewardship at all of our operations. 

At Carmen de Andacollo Operations in Northern Chile, we are working to reduce our intake of fresh water by increasing recovery of water from the thickener, by reducing water used for dust suppression and by implementing other projects. 

We are also evaluating alternative approaches for meeting water needs in new development projects. At Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 (QB2) and NuevaUnión, which are both located in water-stressed regions of Chile, we are evaluating the use of desalinated seawater in order to protect and conserve local sources of fresh water for community and agricultural use. At the same time, using seawater is a significant investment, as it requires the construction of desalination plants and associated pipelines, along with additional energy to desalinate the water and pump it from the coast to our sites (approximately 170 kilometres to QB2 and 125 kilometres to NuevaUnión). For these two projects, we are focusing on the protection of local supplies of fresh water while simultaneously exploring opportunities to offset some of the emissions from the required electricity generation through using renewable sources. 

At our Zafranal project, we are evaluating the use of brackish groundwater, which is not suitable for farming or human consumption, to minimize impacts on local watersheds.

Improving Water Efficiency

We track water data for all our operations using site-wide water balances. Site-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. 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.

Key water performance metrics include total water use, water reused and water recycled. In 2017, 60% of our total water use was from reused/recycled water. Water reused and recycled, expressed as a percentage of new water use, was 149% across the company. At our mining operations only (excluding Trail, which is our zinc and lead smelting and refining facility), this percentage was 378%. This means that our mining operations recycled and reused the same water approximately four times on average before returning that water to the environment.

Table 6: Water Used, Reused and Recycled

 

2017

2016

2015

2014

Total water inputs (m3)

365,399,000

346,462,000

333,150,000

391,637,000

Total water outputs (m3)

376,285,000

353,414,000

340,227,000

388,667,000

Total water use (m3) (1)

291,930,000

285,268,000

285,864,000

326,727,000

New water use (m3)

117,319,000

117,930,000

115,466,000

128,355,000

Water reused/recycled (m3) (1)

174,611,000

167,338,000

170,371,000

198,372,000

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

149%

142%

148%

155%

(1) The figures for 2014-2016 have been restated due to improved methodology for reporting total water reuse at our Red Dog Operations.
(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 nearly 25% of our total water use and about 60% of our new water use. Almost all of the water used at our Trail Operation 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 8: Company-Wide 2017 Water Balance (million m3)

Figure 9: Total and New Water Use (m3) 


Figure 9 illustrates the new water use and total water use trends over the past four years. In 2015, the significant reduction of total water use across all our operations was largely due to the implementation of a cooling tower retrofit project at our Trail Operations. Since 2015, our new water use has remained relatively constant, and we have been improving our practices and increasing our reuse/recycle water use to meet our water needs.
 

Water Intensity 

We benchmark our water performance on the basis of a new water use intensity metric, as shown in Tables 7 and 8. Our new water use intensity is defined as the annual volume of new water used per unit of material processed by our steelmaking coal 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 will allow us to inform water management decisions and improvement projects at our operations.

Table 7: New Water Use Intensity at Coal Operations(1)

Coal Operations

 

2017

2016

2015

2014

New water use (million m3)

11.3

15.5

14.9

15.4

Raw coal processed (tonnes)

40,705,653

38,871,000

35,302,000

40,424,000

New water use intensity (m3/tonne)

0.28

0.40 

0.42

0.38

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

Table 8: New Water Use Intensity at Milling and Flotation Operations(1)

Milling and Flotation Operations

 

2017

2016

2015

2014

New water use (million m3)

33.1

28.0

27.2

29.5

Ore processed (tonnes)

74,355,735

72,262,000

69,186,000

72,565,000

New water use intensity (m3/tonne)

0.45

0.39 

0.39

0.41

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

Our 2017 new water use intensity metrics showed that our steelmaking coal operations improved relative to 2016, and that our base metal milling and flotation operations increased relative to 2016. The improvements in our coal operations are primarily due to improved practices at Greenhills and reduced tailings pond storage capacity at our Fording River Operations. At our Greenhills Operations, a number of system improvements within the process plant increased return flows to the tailings storage facility, providing more water for later reuse. At our Fording River Operations, the combination of a reduced tailings facility water storage capacity and an increase in water inputs from tailings slurry meant that more water was reused in 2017 than in previous years. The increase in new water use intensity at our milling and flotation operations is primarily due to a combination of factors, including:

  • At Highland Valley Copper Operations, increased production rates resulted in an increase of makeup water requirements, which had to be sourced from new water sources
  • At Carmen de Andacollo Operations, a considerably wetter 2017 resulted in more new water (rainwater and surface runoff) accumulating in the tailings storage facility, providing more new water for use
     

Table 9: New Water Use at Quebrada Blanca and Trail Operations (million m3)
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. 

 

2017

2016

2015

2014

Quebrada Blanca (water used primarily in metal leaching process)

1.7

1.6

1.7

1.7

Trail (water used primarily for cooling)

71.1

72.8

71.7

81.6

Outlook for Water Stewardship

In 2018, we will work towards implementing a Water Governance framework across the organization to support our new Water Policy. We will also continue to advance our work towards our sustainability goals for water by increasing our understanding of groundwater at priority operations and by contributing to watershed management in water-stressed regions through water use efficiency projects and watershed-based planning and mitigation activities. To enable sustainable implementation of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan, training, research and development, construction and other activities in the Elk Valley will proceed in 2018. As in past years, we will also continue to collaborate with communities to ensure equitable access to water in water-stressed regions near our operations in Chile.

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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.