Rio Tinto Alcan: environmental performance agreement overview

Note: This agreement is no longer in effect.

This environmental performance agreement (the agreement) was in effect from May 22, 2008, to December 31, 2014.

For a copy of the agreement, email:


The objective of the agreement is to set environmental performance objectives with respect to atmospheric emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from Rio Tinto Alcan's  (RTA) Söderberg aluminium smelter facilities in Kitimat, British Columbia, and in Beauharnois and Shawinigan, Quebec. In addition, the agreement includes:

  • a timeline for achieving the performance objectives
  • the development of a continuous-improvement plan
  • annual reporting of progress made to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)
  • verification of the achievement of the performance objectives by an independent expert


The agreement was negotiated between Environment and Climate Change Canada and Rio Tinto Alcan Inc.

Key requirements

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 to improve these activities.

By signing the agreement, Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) also agreed to develop and annually update an action plan for reducing atmospheric emissions of PAHs at its Söderberg facilities by achieving the environmental performance objectives outlined in the agreement.

Performance results

Achievement of performance objectives

Beauharnois and Shawinigan Söderberg facilities in Quebec have met the performance objectives of this agreement every year since this agreement has been in place, until their respective closure in 2009 and 2013. The Kitimat facility in British Columbia has met its performance objective every year except for 2013 and 2014.

On April 23, 2009, RTA permanently closed the two series of Söderberg cells at its Beauharnois facility. This closure resulted in reductions in PAH emissions of approximately 36 tonnes annually. RTA permanently closed its Shawinigan smelting operations in November 2013. This closure resulted in reductions of PAH emissions of approximately 66 tonnes annually.

As part of the Kitimat modernization project, RTA permanently shut down two Söderberg potlines in 2010. In 2013, the performance objective of the remaining Söderberg potlines was not met due to operational and maintenance issues. In 2014, the company stopped two other Söderberg potlines. Process control improvements resulted in a notable increase in the remaining potlines performance however, the smelter was unable to meet the performance objectives. Kitimat smelter permanently shutdown the remaining Söderberg potlines on October 15, 2015.

Since 2008, introduction of a low-PAH pitch in the three facilities and a pitch and anode quality monitoring program primarily accounted for the achievement of the objectives established in the agreement.

Ambient air monitoring

RTA used an external, independent contractor to analyze its ambient air monitoring activities in Shawinigan and Kitimat between 2008 and 2009. Their recommendations from this analysis were implemented in 2010.

Action plan and annual report

As specified in the agreement, RTA provided Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) with an action plan for the Kitimat facility. The plan describes a number of concrete measures that were implemented to improve the situation and achieve the performance objectives established in the agreement before the permanent shutdown of the remaining Söderberg potlines in 2015.

The 2014 annual report, the action plan and results of the Kitimat facility were submitted in June 2015. These documents are available upon request to ECCC.

Monitoring committees

Kitimat facility

The monitoring committee was built upon the existing Kitimat Public Advisory Committee and is composed of representatives from RTA, the district of Kitimat, the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, the labour union of the Kitimat facility, the Haisla First Nations, at least two regional environmental non-governmental organizations and ECCC.

The monitoring committee met for the first time in May 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 May 26, 2015, where RTA presented its 2014 annual report and updates to the action plan, particularly with respect to the performance objective that was not met. As for the previous meeting, the stability of process and operations, the maintenance and quality of anodes and studs as well as issues related to personnel management in the specific context of plant modernization were discussed.

Results for 2008-2015

This final public report is the last step of the agreement that ended in December 2014. Measures that were implemented by RTA in the context of this agreement resulted in reductions of PAHs atmospheric emissions of about 300 tonnes per year. When this agreement was signed in 2008, Söderberg aluminium production technology was the largest source of industrial emissions of PAHs in Canada. Since October 15, 2015, this technology is not being used anymore in Canada.

Verification results

The firm STS Canada was selected by the  monitoring committee to verify the performance of the RTA facilities 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. RTA will ensure that the recommendations resulting from the verification reports will be implemented in each of the facilities. At this time, all recommendations have been implemented in Shawinigan and 13 out of 15 in Kitimat.

As stated in the agreement, in 2012 the environmental performance objectives are more stringent, and a second third party verification of data was required. Given the closure of Shawinigan facility, no verification was conducted for this facility. For the Kitimat facility, verification of the agreement and of the achievement of these objectives took place in October 2013, and the report has been submitted to the monitoring committee. All the recommendations would not be implemented before the closure of the last Söderberg potrooms in Kitimat.

Background information

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 tonnes.

This agreement was drafted in recognition of RTA'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 ECCC’s Performance agreements website for a 60-day public consultation period, which ended on July 31, 2007.

The agreement was signed by representatives from ECCC and Rio Tinto Alcan on May 22, 2008.

Related information

Contact us

Regulatory Innovation and Management Systems
Environment and Climate Change Canada
351 Blvd Saint-Joseph
Gatineau QC K1A 0H3


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