Rio Tinto Alcan
Annual Public Report 2011
Purpose of the Agreement
The purpose of this Agreement is to set environmental performance objectives with respect to atmospheric emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from Rio Tinto Alcan's Söderberg plants in Kitimat, British Columbia, and Beauharnois and Shawinigan, Quebec. In addition, the Agreement includes a timeline for achieving the objectives and calls for the development of a continuous improvement plan, annual reporting of progress made and verification of the achievement of the objectives by an independent expert.
The Parties to the Agreement agreed to assess the ambient air monitoring activities in place within 12 months of the signing of this Agreement and, if necessary, to propose possible ways of improvement.
By signing the Agreement, Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) also agreed to develop and annually update an action plan for reducing atmospheric emissions of PAH at its Söderberg plants by achieving the environmental performance objectives outlined in the Appendix of the Agreement.
Achievement of Performance Objectives
All facilities covered by the agreement, i.e., Kitimat in British Columbia, Beauharnois and Shawinigan in Quebec have met the performance objectives of this agreement every year since this agreement has been in place.
On January 20, 2009, RTA announced the permanent closure of the two series of Söderberg cells at its Beauharnois plant. Smelting operations were permanently discontinued on April 23, 2009. This closure resulted in reductions in PAH emissions of approximately 40 tonnes annually.
As part of the Kitimat modernization project, the company announced on August 5, 2010, the permanent shutdown of two Söderberg potlines. The closure will significantly reduce annual PAH emissions by approximately 49 tonnes.
The following table compares performance data in kilograms of PAHs per tonne of aluminium produced by each facility against the performance objectives established in the 2008 agreement and against the reference year of 2007.
Performance of the Facility
* Unverified data
Ambient Air Monitoring
Rio Tinto Alcan used an external, independent firm to analyze its ambient air monitoring activities in Shawinigan and Kitimat between 2008 and 2009. The recommendations that resulted from this analysis were implemented in 2010.
Action Plan and Annual Report
As specified in the agreement, Rio Tinto Alcan provided Environment Canada with an action plan for the Shawinigan and Kitimat plants. The plan calls for a certain number of concrete measures to be implemented to achieve the performance objectives established in the agreement. Introduction of a low-PAH pitch in the plants and a pitch and anode quality monitoring program are among the main initiatives responsible for achievement of the objectives established in the agreement.
The 2011 annual reports and updated action plans were submitted on June 21, 2012 following the monitoring committee meeting at the Shawinigan plant and on June 27, 2012 for the Kitimat facility. These documents are available upon request.
The monitoring committee was built upon the existing Public Advisory Committee (PAC) and is composed of representatives from RTA, the city of Kitimat, the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, the labour union of the Kitimat plant, the Haisla First Nations, a regional environmental non-governmental organization and Environment Canada.
The monitoring committee met for the first time on May 13, 2009. The purpose of the meeting was to present RTA's 2008 annual report, select a recognized expert to conduct the verification and discuss the verification protocol. Subsequent meetings have been held annually for the purpose of presenting the updated action plan and annual report. The last monitoring committee meeting was held on December 4, 2012 where RTA presented its 2011 annual report and updates to the action plan, in particular with regards to efforts to increase process stability.
The Parties agreed to establish the monitoring committee for the agreement composed of representatives from RTA, the union of the Shawinigan plant, the citizens of Shawinigan and Environment Canada. Representatives from the Quebec ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs and the Département de la santé publique de Trois-Rivières participate as observers.
The first meeting of the monitoring committee was held on May 6, 2009. The purpose of the meeting was to present RTA's annual report, select a recognized expert to conduct the verification and discuss the verification protocol. The second meeting was held on September 21, 2009, for the purpose of presenting the verification report and discussing the model for the public report and its content.
At the third meeting, held on June 11, 2010, RTA presented the status of implementation of the recommendations outlined in the 2009 verification report, submitted its 2009 annual report and an update of its action plan. The company also presented the results of its ambient air sampling network for the 2001-2009 period.
On September 7th, 2011, RTA presented its 2010 annual report to the Monitoring Committee as well as the updated version of its action plan, in particular with regards to the increase in recycled anodes and low PAHs pitch quality and availability.
The latest monitoring committee meeting was held on June 20, 2012 where RTA presented its 2011 annual report and described efforts on improving low PAH pitch mixes and challenges in reducing PAH emissions (slight increase since 2009).
The firm STS Canada was selected to verify the performance of the subject plants in the year preceding the signature of the agreement (2007) and the achievement of the environmental performance objectives for 2008 as set out in the appendix of the agreement.
This extensive verification includes, among other things, a review of the methods and protocols for sampling and analysis, PAH emission levels, calculation of performance objectives and implementation of measures or activities provided for in the agreement.
The verification report for the Shawinigan facility was submitted on June 18, 2009 and the report for the Kitimat facility was submitted on August 11, 2009. These reports are available upon request.
Rio Tinto Alcan will ensure that the recommendations resulting from the verification reports will be implemented in each of the plants. At this time, all recommendations have been implemented in Shawinigan and 12 out of 17 in Kitimat.
As stated in the agreement, verification activities were not required for 2011.
As described in the agreement, more stringent environmental performance objectives will have to be met in 2012. Third party verification of the achievement of these objectives will be conducted in 2013. An external audit of ambient air monitoring activities will be conducted in 2012-2013.
For more information, you may also contact Jean-François Banville at:
Jean-François Banville, Eng.
Mining & Processing Division
Environmental Stewardship Branch
105 McGill Street
Montreal, Quebec H2Y 2E7
PAHs have been determined to be toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. They represent a group of over 100 chemicals emitted mainly by forest fires (45%), woodburning appliances (31%), aluminium smelters (9%), transportation (5%) and other sources (10%). Total Canadian releases in the year 2000 were 4664 tons.
This agreement was drafted in recognition of Rio Tinto Alcan's commitment to reduce air emissions of PAHs from its old Söderberg aluminium smelters by pursuing alternative practices or technologies. The Söderberg technology is the source of a significant portion of the industrial emissions of PAHs in Canada.
Public consultations on the draft Performance Agreement took place in 2007 in the communities affected. The draft Agreement was posted on Environment Canada's Performance Agreements website for a 60-day public consultation period, which ended on July 31, 2007.
Responses to Comments
Also available are the comments received by Environment Canada on the draft Performance Agreement and the responses to those comments. All the comments received on the draft Agreement were taken into consideration when the final version was prepared, and minor changes were made.
The Agreement was signed by representatives from Environment Canada and Rio Tinto Alcan on May 22, 2008.
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