The union representing workers at Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kitimat smelter has gone to court over increased sulphur dioxide emissions related to the multi-billion dollar expansion of the operation.
Unifor Local 2301 has filed for a Judicial Review in B.C. Supreme Court seeking to set aside a 2014 decision which allowed the Kitimat Modernization Project to proceed without installing sulphur dioxide scrubbers.
Increased production at the smelter will increase SO2 emissions, which the union says are a well-known cause of respiratory ailments, from 27 tonnes per day to 42 tonnes a day.
Unifor says 2012 report from Northern Health concluded that deaths from bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma are 60 per cent higher in Kitimat than the B.C. average.
It says the project restricts daily emissions of SO2 rather than capping emissions to averages within shorter time intervals, which it argues does little to protect health.
“Our 950 members at the Rio Tinto smelter are at ground zero for emissions. This is an unacceptable health and safety risk,” says Scott Doherty, Assistant to the Unifor National President.
Last July, an independent report funded by the province concluded that Kitimat’s environment and residents can handle potential industrial expansion, including the RTA modernization, with proper management.