Cominco started in 1906 as The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada, formed by the amalgamation of several units controlled by the Canadian Pacific Railway. CM&S, or "Smelters" as it was often called by investors, changed its name to Cominco in 1966. Cominco's core Sullivan Mine in Kimberley, British Columbia which began production in 1909, would operate for more than 90 years until its ore reserves exhausted in 2001.
Teck began as Teck-Hughes Gold Mines Limited in 1913, to develop a gold discovery by prospectors Sandy McIntyre and James Hughes at Kirkland Lake, Ontario. The Teck-Hughes Mine would produce for 50 years until 1965. The Beaverdell Mine, purchased by Teck in 1969, went back even further to 1898, and produced silver until 1991.
The association between Teck and Cominco began in 1986, when Teck and two industry partners acquired a shareholding from CP Limited, and culminated with the merging of the two companies in July 2001.
It plans to rebrand and legally change the name of the company to Teck Resources after April 2009.
In the past, Teck Cominco has been criticized and sued for violating environmental laws and standards --as have most natural resource extraction companies, particularly in the mining sector. Teck Cominco, however, has made "best in class" environmental and social performance a priority of late, and is getting recognized for its efforts; awards for safety, reclamation and sustainable development are all available for public scrutiny on their website, as is their sustainability report.
The company's smelter in Trail, British Columbia was blamed in 2003 for heavily contaminating the Columbia River. Legal action taken by American citizens living in settlements downriver progressed to the U.S. Supreme Court and was recently denied certiorari, solidifying the Appellate Court's holding that Teck Cominco is subject to U.S. jurisdiction even though it is a Canadian company.
The company's Red Dog mine operation in north-western Alaska has been ranked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of the most polluting facilities in the United States based on output tonnage of toxic chemicals, largely in the form of waste rock from mining operations. Residents living downstream from the mine recently launched a lawsuit against Teck Cominco, demanding that the Red Dog mine complies with its environmental obligations and that it pay fines for continuing to violate its water permit requirements. On November 30,2007, the company released the final report of its six-year study, with the oversight of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, of risks of dust escaping from traffic along what is officially known as the DeLong Mountain Regional Transportation System Road. The final report incorporates formal comments and input from a wide range of government agencies and stakeholders, including local village residents. The risk assessment concludes it is safe to consume subsistence foods in all areas without restrictions. A refinery belonging to Teck Cominco in Trail, British Columbia was the site of a lead spill into the Columbia River on May 28, 2008.