When the giant on the hill sneezes, the villagers below catch cold.
Until recently, Teck’s community investment policy under Imagine Canada guidelines has been to give back one per cent of revenues (based on a five-year average) to the community in which it does business.
In 2008, Teck Trail Operations generated $146 million in profits and an additional $62 million in power sales (one per cent equals $2.08 million).
Yet, it contributed only $302,500 to Trail’s community. One wonders where the remaining $1.7 million ended up. Not in Trail.
Although the community is grateful for any and all charitable contributions, whenever Teck’s Trail Operations has a mercury spill in the river, thallium industrial accident, continued blood lead testing of children due to years of environmental pollution, or corporate financial challenges, the community of Trail bears the brunt of the bad publicity and the financial burden.
While positive media stories help mitigate the negative image of the city, it’s for the most part, reactive, not proactive.
Communities in Bloom and Teck environmental services have had good success of late to showcase environmental improvements. This is good and should be kept up.
But it’s not enough. A thorough exploration of an industrial tourism community investment policy is due funded by one per cent of monies that were committed in Teck’s own policy statements.
In Trail, we have a timely opportunity to develop a sustainable science, technology, trades, health, social and cultural history centre for area children, residents and tourists who have eager and curious minds to explore and understand how processes function. The community would like to be less reliant of the “employer on the hill.”
Yet, the funds that were committed through Teck’s sustainability policy for investment in the local community from which it derives its profits, are diverted elsewhere.
It is one thing if there were no funds available, but the money is available and “donated” to locations deemed more appropriate by Teck’s Vancouver corporate office.
Projects of interest include a new municipal library, new Trail museum and heritage centre, educational opportunities such as: a rural radiology/laboratory technician training centre, improved airport access to the community at the Trail Airport and an apprentice training facility in collaboration with Teck. The list of possibilities is only limited by one’s imagination.
At present, we have small, scattered venues that could cater to the industrial tourist. The Teck Interpretive Centre, co-located with the Chamber of Commerce, lacks visibility and is limited in what knowledge it offers to students and adults.
The Trail Museum is very small, incomplete and lacks visibility. Teck retirees offer guided plant tours that could be improved to include access to those with physical challenges.
What better place to start a tour than with a new expanded centre that displays Trail Operations’ many innovations over the years?
What better way to engage thirsty young (and older) minds than to have interpretive displays in the applied sciences, technology, metallurgy, ore exploration, mineralogy, transportation, communication, production, marketing and sales combined with a social and cultural history of our industrial heritage?
Why not combine forces with municipal, provincial, federal and other stakeholders to build a lasting education and knowledge centre legacy right here in the birthplace of Trail Operations smelter? We have enough retirees willing to share their time and knowledge.
To quote Teck spokesman Richard Fish in celebrating Trail’s Teck Cominco 100-year anniversary:
“More than anything else, it has been the constant willingness to investigate and invest in new technologies that has helped Trail survive for 100 years, through two world wars, the Depression and wildly fluctuating metal markets. It’s interesting to note that there were 19 other British Columbia base metal smelters early last century, some of them quite substantial such as those at Greenwood and Anyox, that have not survived.”
Teck could be the prime mover in helping the community diversify and pass on knowledge to the next generation using the funds that were spoken of in its community investment policy.