Community investment steals spotlight at Teck open house

Trail man claimed Teck isn't investing enough in the community to offset harmful environmental effects at the Teck open house on Tuesday.

A presentation of Teck’s two new capital projects swayed toward community investment Tuesday when a man in the crowd argued the company has left more smoke than legacy behind.

Trail professional Mario Cabianca pointed to Teck’s 2006 sustainability report, concluding that the mining giant has short changed Trail in its commitment to invest one per cent annual earnings before taxes and interest over a five-year rolling average.

With Teck and the Waneta Dam accumulating about $1.1 billion in gross earnings before interest tax depreciations and amortization profits between 2006 to 2010, he said the company should have put about over $12 million into community investment rather than the $1.9 million it did.

“Trail Operations is sustaining their historic role of polluting the air, water and soil,” he said, noting a number of mishaps at the plant including about 15 kilograms of mercury solution that spilled into the Columbia River in October of 2010.

“The sustainability of community means to support and maintain that community. Presently the only thing that’s sustainable is the constant total profits from Trail, B.C., to the corporate office in Vancouver, Donald Lindsay’s home town.”

Cabianca is referring to the heavy funding delivered to projects in larger centres – like $2.5 million spent on setting up a Teck emergency centre at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

“As far as I can see if Teck leaves tomorrow that’s a huge problem but if Teck leaves Trail tomorrow, it makes no difference to Vancouver,” he said. “I know you have many plants around the world but $53 million all going to the corporate cities of Toronto and Vancouver, I think that’s truly an inequitable distribution of the profits.”

Greg Belland, general manager of Trail Operations, explained that Teck’s corporate community investments are not divvied up according to earnings based on sites and encouraged the crowd of about 100 Greater Trail residents to come forward with any project ideas they may have.

“There’s no given formula to the investment that we have that says that proportion will match exactly what the earnings are for any given site,” he said. “We have a long history with Trail and we look forward to a much longer history going forward, too. There’s demonstration through the commitment in the investment of these projects that we will be here for a long time.”

Teck is spending $210 million on tripling its capacity to recycle end-of-life electronics in Trail with the No. 4 Furnace Project, which includes the construction of a new slag fuming furnace and settling furnace to be located at the southeast corner of the property overlooking downtown and the Columbia River.

Last year, 13,000 tonnes of “e-waste” was recycled in Trail and “there is far more generated today than there is capacity to treat it,” according to Belland.

Trail Operations began processing televisions, computers and other electronic items on a trial basis in 2006 and was designated as a reprocessing site when the B.C. program started up in 2007.

After recyclables are sorted by KC Recycling, Teck receives two waste streams for processing. The company then processes glass as it feeds into the Kivcet smelter and the e-waste bits and pieces from the shred go into the No. 2 slag-fuming furnace. The slag-fuming furnace removes additional gold, silver and copper, as well as lead, zinc and nickel, while vaporizing wood and plastics to help fire the furnace.

The expansion of this process will allow Trail to take in “e-scrap,” a smaller subset of waste like circuit boards and processors within computers.

“We will generate excess steam as a result of this and we do have an opportunity to look at using that steam or that energy value for example toward a potential project to generate electricity to put in a co-generation project,” explained Belland.

A minor increase in some metals – offset by no net increase in sulfur dioxide (SO2) – from the No. 4 Furnace Project will vary depending on production levels and on the source and mixture of Trail Operations’ feeds, according to

Catherine Adair, Teck’s community engagement coordinator.

Though metal emissions to water will rise by five per cent for zinc, nearly 10 per cent for lead, seven per cent for thallium, 16 per cent for arsenic, three per cent for copper and 16 per cent for cadmium, projected levels are still within the Ministry of Environment’s permitted levels for Trail Operations.

The project will require about 500,000 man-hours of work, which equates to about 200 construction jobs from this year to 2014.

Belland anticipates about 20 new positions will result once the furnaces are complete while no permanent jobs will arise with the $125-million installation of a new acid plant – the second project highlighted during the information meeting.

“The acid plant will not add any new jobs because we are simply replacing two existing acid plants with a new one so we’ll be just moving the operators, maintenance and trades people to the new plant,” he explained.

The construction of the new site, which will be located adjacent to existing acid plants in the middle of operations, is expected to be complete in late 2013.

About 300,000 hours of construction labour are required to complete the project, which equates to about 150 short-term jobs.

The $125 million No. 1 Acid Plant will result in enhanced operating reliability and flexibility as well as improved environmental performance, with total SO2 emissions reduced by about 700 tonnes (15 per cent), according to Teck’s Richard Deane, manager of energy and public affairs.

The acid plant is part of the process that turns S02 gas into fertilizer and sulphur products that are used in municipal water treatment and pulp and paper.

The SO2 gas shows up as a result of Teck’s zinc roasting and lead smelting process. It’s captured from these processes and sent to the acid plant and then for further treatment in Warfield, where fertilizer products are produced.