Teck Resources Ltd. is Canada’s largest diversified mining company and the world’s second-biggest exporter of steelmaking coal (metallurgical coal). The company also holds large extraction operations for zinc, copper and oil
Teck positions itself as a “green” mining company that is leading the pack on climate responsibility. Unfortunately, its actions don’t match its stated intentions: its coal-heavy portfolio is now diversifying into oil production. Teck has a large stake in the Fort Hills oil sands mine and is advancing its proposed Frontier oil sands mine, which if approved would become one of the largest open-pit oil sands mines ever developed in Alberta, putting it on our Top 50 list as an emitter.
Head office: Vancouver, British Columbia (BC)
Countries of operation: Canada, Chile, Peru, US
Revenue: C$12 billion 58
Assets: C$37 billion 59
Reserves: 922 million tonnes steelmaking coal; oil sands reserves: 3.8 billion barrels 60
Employees: 10,109 63
Memberships: Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, Council for Clean Capitalism,International Council on Mining and Metals, Mining Association of BC, Mining Association of Canada, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
Teck was originally formed in 1913 as Teck-Hughes Gold Mines Ltd., focusing exclusively on gold mining near Kirkland Lake, Ontario. Throughout the first half of the century Teck steadily increased its assets in mining operations throughout the country, and in 1962, Teck-Hughes merged with major Canadian fossil fuel and mining companies Lamaze and Canadian Devonian Petroleums to form Teck Corporation.1 In 2001, Teck acquired full interest in Cominco, substantially increasing its zinc and copper assets.2 Teck ramped up its interests in metallurgical coal when it acquired the assets of Fording Canadian Coal Trust—Canada’s largest metallurgical coal producer at the time—in 2008.3 This provided it with full ownership of Teck and Fording’s Elk Valley Coal Partnership, a coal operation located in Fernie, BC. Teck situated its coal business within a wholly owned subsidiary, Teck Coal Ltd.
|Temagami Mining Company Ltd.||CA||32.05|
|Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec||CA||11.13|
|People’s Republic of China||CN||10.32|
|SMM (Sumitomo Metal Mining) Resources Inc.||CA||9.79|
|Capital Group Co. Inc.||US||7.13|
|Fullbloom Investment Corp.||CN||6.74|
|Royal Bank of Canada||CA||3.43|
|Impala Asset Management LLC||US||2.38|
|Bank of Montreal||CA||2.34|
|Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce||CA||2.29|
|Letko, Brosseau & Associates||CA||2.26|
|Vanguard Group Inc.||US||1.99|
|Connor, Clark & Lunn Financial Group Ltd.||CA||1.85|
|Power Corporation of Canada||CA||1.40|
|VanEck Associates Corp.||US||1.38|
|Janus Henderson Group PLC||GB||1.32|
|GMT Capital Group||US||1.18|
|Dimensional Fund Advisors LP||US||1.05|
Included are all shareholdings of 1% and greater. Source: Orbis Database, October 2018.
Teck’s ownership profile is complicated by what is called a “dual-class share structure” which includes two “classes” of shares— A and B shares—each carrying distinct voting capacities. The company adopted the structure in 1971, issuing 4.6 million voting Class A shares, each carrying a “weight” of 100 votes, while Class B votes earn a single vote per share.4 Often, dual-class share structures mean that key executives and founders can maintain the majority shareholder power without necessarily owning a majority of the company’s equity. In Teck’s case, Class A shares hold 62 per cent of the votes available at shareholder meetings while representing only 1.7 per cent of the company’s total shares.5
These Class A shares are held in large part by Temagami Mining, which is owned by Teck’s founding family, the Keevils, and Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining. The company holds 2.1 million of the A shares, giving the company’s founding family control over the voting activities of the company.6Teck’s numerous connections to the Chinese government are exemplified by its third-largest shareholder—the People’s Republic of China (the second is the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, CDPQ). Fullbloom Investment Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the China Investment Corporation’s sovereign wealth fund, holds a large 6.74 per cent ownership stake.7
With Fullbloom and other ties to China, Teck’s decision to appoint board member Quan Chong has caused concern about the company’s ties to the Chinese government.8Chong has been a deputy of the National People’s Congress of China and a long-time senior trade official for the government of China.9 The watchdog group Integrity BC has raised concerns about Chong’s appointment signalling undue foreign influence in a Canadian company.10
Frequently blurring the lines between shareholders and governing executives, Teck’s largest shareholders have been directly represented on its governing board: Norman Keevil, son of Teck’s founder Norman Keevil Sr., joined Teck as vice-president of exploration, later serving as president and CEO for over 20 years. In 2001, Keevil was appointed chairman of the board. As noted, Keevil’s family co-owns Temagami Mining, Teck’s principal shareholder, with Sumitomo Metal Mining. Sumitomo is linked to Teck through Temagami and through its own corporate ownership share of the company,11and is also represented on Teck’s board through Eiichi Fukuda, currently working as president and director of Sumitomo Canada, and Takeshi Kubota, an advisor of the company.12
Ties between Teck’s board members and Canada’s “Big 5” banks are also notable: Teck director Una Power had a 24-year career with Nexen-CNOOC 13 and currently sits on Scotiabank’s board of directors. Teck also interlocks with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce through board member Laura Dottori-Attanasio, Chief Risk Officer at CIBC, and through director Donald Lindsay, who worked for nearly two decades in the CIBC World Markets branch.14
Accounting for nearly half of its entire gross profit, Teck’s metallurgical coal operations are carried out in six mines, with five located in southeastern BC and one in Alberta.15 Metallurgical coal, also known as “coking” coal, is one of the most commonly used ingredients in the steelmaking process: the coal is used to make “coke,” which is combined with iron ore to make steel. While metallurgical coal is less carbon intensive than lignite coal, the form used most frequently in electrical generation, both are extremely emissions intensive.16 Teck owns four copper mines throughout North and South America: one in Canada (BC), two in Chile and partial ownership of the Antamina copper and zinc mine in Peru—one of the world’s largest open-pit base metal mines.17 Teck operates zinc extraction facilities in Washington State, Alaska and BC.
For its oil operations, the company recently increased its interests in the Alberta oil sands, and with one of Alberta’s largest proposed oil sands projects in the review process, this share may be about to increase exponentially. Teck’s most recent venture in the oil sands features the Fort Hills project, north of Fort McMurray. It owned 21 per cent of the $17 billion operation, which began production in January 2018.18 The project promises to extract 194,000 barrels of oil per day, and it contains enough reserves to guarantee 50 years of extraction at a similar rate of production. 19
However, Fort Hills will quickly be outpaced in size and scope by the Frontier oil sands project that Teck has proposed for Alberta’s Athabasca region. Teck is the sole owner of the over C$20 billion project—one of the most expensive projects in the history of Alberta’s oil sands.20 Under Teck’s oversight, the Frontier oil sands are slated to produce 260,000 barrels of bitumen per day over a 40-year lifespan, with proven reserves totalling over 3 billion barrels of bitumen.21The project is the biggest under review by both the Alberta Energy Regulator and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.22 Frontier would require open-pit mining, a technique which requires intensive land disturbance.23
Under Teck’s former name, Teck Cominco, the company faced numerous sanctions for environmental infringements throughout its operations.24 In 2008, the company rebranded itself as “Teck Resources,” initiating a substantive PR campaign to promote its environmental and social ethics. This included a C$25 million donation to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, supporting the creation of the Teck Acute Care Centre that opened in 2017.25 Teck’s environmental strategy has also gained attention: the company has been listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index,26 won recognition as one of the Best 50 Corporate Citizens from Corporate Knights, and was named one of the Top 50 Socially Responsible Corporations by Sustainalytics—a report featured in Maclean’s and L’actualité magazines.27
In BC, Teck actively participates in public policy development on climate change. In 2017 Marcia Smith, Senior Vice-President of Sustainability and External Affairs for Teck, was named co-chair of the BC NDP’s “Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council.”28Since its inception in 2008, Teck representatives have sat on the advisory board for the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions—a government-funded research institute that informs provincial climate policy.29 Teck has publicly acknowledged the threat of climate change, advocating for a state-imposed carbon tax to address the issue through market mechanisms.30 Measuring its progress with the yardstick of emissions intensity rather than absolute emissions, Teck boasts substantial accomplishments in emissions reduction, claiming to be one of the “lowest GHG [greenhouse gas] emission intensity miners in the world.” 31
However, these reductions only account for the GHGs produced in Teck’s operations and ignore the “downstream” impacts of the products they produce—in the case of coal production, these emissions far outweigh operational outputs. Meanwhile, Teck continues to advance a technology-focused approach to mitigating its GHG emissions: its applications for the Frontier oil sands project promise to draw on cogeneration technology to recycle waste heat, and commit to investing in energy-efficient retrofits for haul trucks.32Teck’s founding membership in Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA)33further illustrates its approach to high-tech emissions-reduction strategies: COSIA funds research to “green” oil sands operations by attempting to decrease the amount of emissions created for each barrel of oil produced, while also researching and developing carbon capture and storage technology that injects carbon produced from oil extraction deep underground.34
Teck claims that its diversified mining portfolio enables the company to shift its operations to meet demand for more low-carbon energy sources, citing the importance of its mined metals—copper and zinc—in renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines.35
Unfortunately, Teck’s willingness to adjust to demand doesn’t carry over to action that respects current climate limits: Teck’s recent decision to shift its production emphasis toward oil sands oil suggests that the company may be defending the status quo rather than leading change.
Further, Teck suggests that its steelmaking coal is “an essential ingredient in the production of steel,” conflating its products with vital infrastructure such as railway systems, schools and bridges.36According to Greenpeace, metallurgical coal is not the only fuel that can be used to produce steel: less emissions-intensive methods include the use of an electric arc furnace fed with recycled metal materials.37
Teck’s Frontier oil sands project threatens to violate Indigenous rights for communities whose territories would be impacted, two of which—the Athabasca Chipewyan and the Mikisew Cree First Nations—have publicly opposed the project.38 Teck’s lease covers tributaries of Lake Claire—a water body that feeds the largest inland freshwater delta in the world, a part of Wood Buffalo National Park. In 2015 the Mikisew Cree First Nation, whose territory centres on the Athabasca Delta, appealed to have the park protected, citing its critical importance to the continuation of their traditional culture.39
Oil from the Frontier site would be shipped through the Trans Mountain pipeline, a project that would cut through the traditional territories of many First Nations communities who oppose it—seven of whom have launched court actions against the federal government in response to the project’s approval. 40 Before the Trans Mountain pipeline was purchased by the Canadian government, Teck applied to its previous proponent, Kinder Morgan Canada, to use the Trans Mountain line to ship Frontier’s bitumen to BC’s coast, 41 making it one of 13 companies that have signed 15-to-20-year agreements to ship through the pipeline.42
Finally, Frontier could make Canada’s GHG emissions targets impossible to reach. Alberta’s 100 megatonne yearly cap on oil sands emissions has been widely recognized as insufficient in helping meet the country’s national commitment to cut emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.43 Building the Frontier project may mean that Canada will be unable to meet its goals.44 Current approvals already in place for oil sands operations would push the province’s emissions over 130 megatonnes—indicating that Frontier would push far beyond the cap.45It is noteworthy that in 2015 Teck signed the 2015 Paris Pledge46— a signatory option for civil society groups and businesses to pledge their commitment to work toward achieving the Paris Agreement.
Elk Valley selenium levels:
Teck’s coal-mining operations in BC have brought both the company and the ministries tasked with its regulation under fire for dangerously elevated selenium levels. The Elk Valley in southeastern BC is home to the province’s largest producing coalfield.47 and has been mined steadily for the past 100 years.48 Since 2008 Teck has been the sole owner of all coal mines in the region. 49
According to a report by BC’s auditor general in 2016, selenium levels had been rising steadily in the area for over 20 years, but neither Teck nor the provincial government had taken significant measures to address it.50 Selenium buildup occurs as water leaches the element from waste rock produced through the mining process. Selenium carries up the food chain after entering water bodies and streams, becoming most concentrated in animals such as fish, birds and humans. Research by the Ministry of Environment found that selenium levels had been increasing at 13 per cent annually in the region, far beyond BC’s safe drinking water baselines. 51 Despite its awareness of rising selenium levels, Teck was successful in its 2009 application to expand its operations at Line Creek and was permitted to extract an additional 3.5 million tonnes of coal annually for the next 18 years.52 The BC cabinet chose to approve the permit using a never-before-used clause in the Environmental Management Act that provides cabinet with jurisdiction to approve permits if the project is found to be “in the public interest”—making no clarification of the basis on which “public interest” was assessed. If completed, the Line Creek expansion will generate selenium levels five times higher than that set in BC’s water quality guidelines for aquatic fish, and it would enable Teck to extend its activities into the habitat of the westslope cutthroat trout—listed as a species of special concern under the federal Species at Risk Act. 53
International mining incidents
In Chile, Teck has faced sanctions for its environmental record at the Andacollo copper mine—the company was found to have been negligent in providing sufficient infrastructure to operate the mine safely.54 The allegedly “serious charges” could mean that Teck will face a maximum penalty of $4 million, or the withdrawal of its permit to continue operations.55
In 2012, Teck’s co-owned Antamina mine in the Peruvian Andes mountain range spilled 45 tonnes of mining waste containing lead, arsenic and sulphur.56 The spill injured over 140 people, many of whom were harmed while attempting to contain the spill: the mine provided absorbent fabric to those working on cleanup but failed to provide gloves or protective masks.57
Learn more about Teck Resources at LittleSis.org
The intent of the Corporate Mapping Project database is to engage Canadians in a conversation about the role of the fossil fuel sector in our democracy, by “mapping” how power and influence play out in the oil, gas and coal industries of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The federal target aims to reduce emissions by 30 per cent under 2005 levels by 2030. James Wood, “Alberta Reducing Emissions, but Unlikely to Live Up to Canada’s Climate Change Targets,” Calgary Herald, January 17, 2008, https://calgaryherald.com/news/politics/alberta-reducing-emissions-but-unlikely-to-live-up-to-canadas-climate-change-targets.