- The Kitimat Modernization Project (KMP) is a $3.3 billion project by Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) designed to modernize and increase production at the company's aluminium smelter in Kitimat.
- The project was first announced in 2007 and given the formal notice to proceed in 2011 by RTA's Board of Directors.
- Overall, the modernization will reduce emissions by nearly 50 per cent including significant reductions in fluoride, particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and greenhouse gases.
- The modernization project did not require an environmental assessment because of the overall reduction in total waste discharge compared with the increase in the production capacity of the facility.
- The increased production will, however, result in higher sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions and on April 23, 2013, the Ministry of Environment granted a permit amendment, under the Environmental Management Act, to RTA allowing increased SO2 emissions at their Kitimat smelter as part of the KMP.
- The decision was made by ministry staff, as the statutory evidence-based decision maker, which keeps the decision at arm's length from the political process.
- In evaluating the application, the ministry considered a large volume of scientific assessments, technical information, First Nations input, community feedback and other information.
- The decision maker was satisfied there is sufficient information to set requirements for the protection of the environment and human health.
- The ministry consulted with the Northern Health Authority and will work closely with the health authority as the SO2 increase is phased in.
- Comprehensive analysis conducted by an expert in epidemiology concludes that SO2 does not cause new disease and an increase in SO2 is predicted to lead to an increase of less than one per cent in the number of restricted airway events among residents with existing airway conditions.
- As part of the proposed upgrade, the ministry required RTA to hold public consultations and complete monitoring and impact assessment studies evaluating the potential impacts to soil, water, vegetation and human health in the airshed.
- RTA has held 20 public open houses in the community to-date, used an expert team of qualified professionals to complete the studies and has consulted with the Haisla First Nation as directed by the Province.
- The permit amendment will increase the sulphur dioxide emission limit from a maximum of 27 tonnes per day to a maximum of 42 tonnes per day. The SO2 emissions are expected to increase progressively with full production in 2016. Full commissioning and stabilization of smelter emissions are expected to occur by the end of 2018.
- As part of the amendment, RTA must submit an Environmental Effects Monitoring (EEM) program plan to the ministry for review and approval by March 31, 2014.
- The EEM program is to include effects monitoring along four lines-of-evidence: human health, vegetation, and terrestrial and aquatic environments. The program will also include criteria that would trigger emission reduction and/or other mitigation.
- The impact assessment work done by RTA, in support of the amendment to increase SO2 emissions from the Kitimat smelter, are site specific and do not determine the capacity of the airshed for other potential emission sources.
- As with all decisions of this nature, there is an appeal process.
Ministry of Environment