Diversified resource company Teck has announced that it will test antimicrobial copper coatings on high-touch transit surfaces on public transport in Vancouver, Canada. Teck has partnered with British Columbia transport authority TransLink, Vancouver Coastal Health, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction (CHAIR), and the University of British Columbia for the project.

The antimicrobial copper coatings will be used on buses and Vancouver’s SkyTrain, the city’s light rapid transit system. Copper alloy surfaces are naturally antimicrobial and have self-sanitising properties, with research showing that these surfaces can eliminate up to 99.9% of harmful bacteria and viruses.

The project is the first implementation of this kind in North America and continues Teck’s efforts to promote antimicrobial copper surfaces being used in healthcare and public spaces as part of the company’s Copper & Health programme. The company advocates antimicrobial copper to reduce the spread of infectious diseases – the idea being that while existing infrastructure and equipment in healthcare, sports facilities, or other public spaces can be cleaned and sanitised daily, that still leaves a prolonged period for bacteria to grow and to be spread by humans. Antimicrobial copper, on the other hand, can kill harmful bacteria around the clock.

The pilot project on Vancouver’s transport network will be fully funded by Teck and will run for an initial phase of four weeks with various copper surfaces being installed on two buses that run along busy routes and two SkyTrain cars.

“We are proud to be working with all the partners on this important pilot project to expand the use of antimicrobial copper in high-traffic areas and prevent infections,” Teck president and CEO Don Lindsay said. “Through the Copper & Health programme, Teck has been partnering with healthcare professionals, academia and others for years to help make communities safer. This pilot builds on those efforts at a critical time as the world works to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

Teck is a copper producer currently focused on growing its copper production through the construction of the Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 copper project in Chile. Teck describes the site as one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper resources, and the project is expected to have low operating costs, an initial mine life of 28 years, and potential for further growth.

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TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said: “We’re proud to be the first transit agency in North America to pilot this industry-leading technology and I look forward to working closely with our project partners.

“We’ve been carefully examining new ways to ensure transit is one of the safest public spaces throughout the pandemic. The risk of Covid-19 transmission on transit remains extremely low and this initiative will only bolster our comprehensive cleaning and disinfection protocols which are already in place. Any findings from this pilot project will be shared with our fellow transit agency colleagues and other industries which may be able to use this emerging technology.”

Chilean mining minister Baldo Prokurica previously promoted the use of copper to fight Covid-19, and in May he ordered that the building he worked out of should be disinfected using a substance containing copper nanoparticles.