In the early stages of project development, there are many decisions that a mine project will require. Many of these decisions are fundamental to the understanding of the environmental setting of the project. As part of Teck’s development of their base understanding of their Mesaba project near Babbitt, MN, we were asked to conduct a preliminary assessment of the existing air quality and potential air quality impacts from the project. The goal was to identify whether there were any major identifiable air quality hurdles that needed to be addressed that would dramatically change the project configuration or site limitations.
We developed an approach that first reviewed and assessed the existing information available for the site and the other permitted mining operations within the vicinity of the project. We compiled and assessed the information, focusing on particulates and other criteria pollutants, to determine the usability of the information as background and to identify any potential red flags present at these facilities. We then reviewed the preliminary project configuration to develop input values and preliminary emissions calculations that allowed for a comparison of the order of magnitude of identified incremental changes in pollutants for various operating scenarios. Lastly, we conducted a review of the results and provided an environmental review and regulatory process assessment to identify critical steps and milestones that should be anticipated as the project continues to develop.
We provided Teck actionable information on the air quality issues associated with the surrounding facilities and the project. Our work allowed Teck to focus on developing additional optionality in siting roads, rock storage, crushing and processing facilities, and tailings management facilities with an understanding of the sensitivity these features may have in relationship to air quality and regulatory constraints. The assessment did not require detailed modelling and provided cost effective, right sized (magnitude), and adaptable to future refinement approach for decision making.