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A visitor looks at a presentation by Teck Resources at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) annual conference in Toronto on March 1, 2020.Chris Helgren/Reuters

Teck Resources Ltd. TECK-A-T is donating 14,000 hectares of land in Canada and Chile for conservation as part of a plan to preserve or rehabilitate three times as much area as it disturbs by 2030.

Teck, a Vancouver-based copper, zinc and coal miner, said the effort includes donations of tracts of land in eastern British Columbia to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). It is also partnering with Chile’s Ollagüe Quechua Indigenous community to protect wetlands near the company’s Quebrada Blanca operations, close to the Bolivian border. The donations will be equivalent to 40 per cent of the company’s mining footprint.

In addition to the land grants, Teck will contribute $22.6-million to conservation efforts, including the establishment of an Indigenous stewardship fund to help communities build up capacity to help protect ecosystems in those regions.

The company’s stated goal is to become “nature-positive” in all its operating areas within the next seven and a half years. To accomplish that, it will need to halt, then reverse, the loss of ecosystems in those places.

Nature positivity is a relatively new concept being advanced by several environmental organizations. It does not yet have a consensus definition, but in its simplest form it means going beyond the basic necessity of minimizing environmental damage by pursuing policies that actually enhance ecosystems. The UN Convention on Biodiversity has called on governments and companies to preserve biodiversity, store carbon and purify water as part of nature-positive efforts.

“Nature loss is obviously a severe global challenge. It’s probably similar in scale to climate change,” Teck chief executive officer Don Lindsay said in an interview. “We’re a resource company. We’re cognizant that our operations have an environmental footprint, and so as a resource company we want to do more than just mitigate our own impact.”

According to the conservation organization Business For Nature, more than half the world’s GDP – US$44-trillion of economic value – is at moderate or severe risk because of nature loss.

Asked whether the lands to be donated have little value to Teck in comparison to those it is mining, Mr. Lindsay pushed back against the notion. The NCC will determine the value of what will be conserved through the program, he said. “You want to make sure that it is not just scrub brush that doesn’t have that much value in terms of biodiversity. I think that things we’re choosing – which we’re working on with NCC – are things that they value.”

The lands cover an area the size of 20,000 soccer fields, the company said in a statement. Teck’s financial donations include $2-million to the NCC for the purchase and management of the 8,000-hectare Next Creek Watershed within the Darkwoods Conservation Area of B.C’s East Kootenay mountains. The company is handing over 162 hectares in the Wycliffe Wildlife Corridor near Kimberley, B.C., along with $600,000 for land management there. The Chilean donation includes 5,800 hectares in the Alconcha Salt Flat.

The company will spend $10-million to create the Indigenous stewardship fund, and will donate $12-million to the NCC to support other conservation efforts in B.C.

Catherine Grenier, NCC’s chief executive, described Teck’s contribution as transformational. She said most of the $12-million will go to the organization’s Collaboration Conservation Impact Fund in B.C. That program focuses on large-landscape projects that are possible only with participation from governments, Indigenous groups and industry.

“What we’re really hoping is that, with a commitment like this one, it’s also going to inspire others to join in the movement and really take conservation into their own hands,” Ms. Grenier said. “When we’re thinking of the crises we’re facing – with biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapses, climate change – nature conservation is such a powerful solution. The more players we can bring to help us, the more we’re going to be having a significant impact.”

Mr. Lindsay said he attended sessions on the nature-positive movement with other business and environmental leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month, and much of the discussion centered on defining the concept.

“There’s a lot of really smart, passionate people working on it, and a lot of them have different views of what the definition should be. I thought, we should just get on with it,” he said.

The company said the initiative will help support its net-zero carbon emissions plan, which it expanded earlier this year. Teck says it is seeking carbon neutrality for its own operations and from the electricity it buys by 2025. It has also announced an “ambition” to achieve net-zero “Scope 3″ emissions, or those stemming from the use of its output by customers, by 2050.

Mr. Lindsay said it is difficult to quantify the carbon-reduction impact of protecting the donated land, compared with the company’s emissions from its metallurgical-coal and oil-sands mining operations.

The conservation efforts are in addition to Teck’s 2013 acquisition of 7,000 hectares in the Elk and Flathead River valleys of B.C., where it has signed a joint management agreement with the Ktunaxa Nation. That deal is designed to protect the area’s social, cultural and ecological importance.

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