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All rights reserved.
Imperial Metals is committed to responsible, sustainable resource development. People, safety and environment are integral to our production planning and execution, safety training and education are incumbent to maintaining a safe working environment for employees, and our operations have a long history of supporting environmental research.
Mines are important drivers of economic growth and social prosperity. Our goal is engagement through open and direct dialogue with regulatory agencies, First Nations and local communities, and to provide assistance and participation in activities benefitting communities and the environment. We pursue building and fostering strong, mutually-beneficial relationships with First Nations through partnering on training, employment, environment management, socio-cultural awareness, business opportunities, and capacity investment.
People & Local Communities
The process of turning rock into value is entirely dependent on people and their expertise, which is why the most valuable resource our people. We collaborate with leadership and community members to assist with their objectives, with focus on youth, education and health. We have supported and work with regional educational institutions whose programs are geared to the next generation of geoscientists, engineers, trades and other skilled positions, and we provide scholarships, employment and apprenticeship opportunities to students in recognized mining related co-op programs. We offer seasonal work opportunities for students, which provides valuable work experience to support their educational objectives, as well as providing financial assistance while completing their studies.
The value of these programs and others like them, extends beyond acquiring skills and qualifications – they help to create a foundation for sustainable communities.
Red Chris and the Tahltan Nation signed an Impact, Benefit and Co-Management Agreement (IBCA) in July 2015. The IBCA provides the basis for a life-of-mine partnership covering revenue sharing, education, training, employment and contracting opportunities, capacity support and provisions for communication and interaction on social and environmental matters. A Project Advisory Committee (PAC) oversees implementation of the IBCA, and is engaged in strengthening relations with the Tahltan Nation through cooperative management procedures, employment, contracting, sponsorship and community support activities. As part of the initiatives under the IBCA, an HR inventory database with an Essential Skills component is being developed for the Tahltan membership that will help identify candidates for work at the mine based on the projected workforce requirements and facilitate the development of the training plan.
Mount Polley entered into a Participation Agreement with the Williams Lake Indian Band (T’exelc First Nation) in December 2011 and the Soda Creek Indian Band (Xatśūll First Nation) in May 2012. These agreements were the first in the Province between First Nations and a pre-existing operating mine in British Columbia, and resulted in a high level of engagement and communication with the leadership and members of the Xatśūll and T’exelc First Nation communities. The strength of these relationships provided a critical foundation for communications and cooperation following the 2014 Mount Polley tailings dam failure. Meetings are regularly held with First Nations to ensure consultation for ongoing development and future plans for the mine. Revised Participation Agreements were signed with the Williams Lake Indian Band in August 2016, and with the Soda Creek Indian Band in April 2017.
Our objective is to manage and protect the air, water, land, vegetation, wildlife, and heritage resources of the land on which the mine is currently active, in order to support returning land use objectives after mine closure.
The Red Chris mine has established relationships to collaborate with First Nation representatives, government regulators, and other stakeholders to assure environmental management is consistent with relevant regulatory requirements, the needs of stakeholders, and meets regulatory guidelines and best practices of the industry. Red Chris has a comprehensive Environmental Management System (EMS) which consists of a series of management procedures and monitoring programs that integrate engineering design and environmental planning to minimize or mitigate potential impacts of the mine on the environment. The EMS contains plans for:
To monitor the effectiveness of these mitigation strategies, the Red Chris Environment Dept. has implemented an extensive monitoring network surrounding the mine site and in the receiving environment, which encompasses air quality, weather, surface water, groundwater, vegetation, wildlife and archaeological monitoring sites. The surface and groundwater monitoring networks are extensive, each consisting of hundreds of sites. Monitoring programs are designed, developed and implemented by qualified professionals, and are approved by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy as part of the commitments in the Environmental Management Act permit under which the mine operates. These monitoring programs are designed in order to ensure there are sufficient measurements across enough representative locations that the data collected adequately describe the conditions within and surrounding the mine site. The data are used to calibrate and check the conceptual and predicted concentrations and loading of mine-related contaminants on the mine site, which allows for adapting the environmental impact mitigation strategies to our developing understanding of site conditions.
Red Chris is committed to adaptively managing the EMS and the monitoring network based on new information as the mine site changes over time. The Red Chris Monitoring Committee (RCMC), a requirement of the Mines Act Permit for the site,provides an annual forum for discussions on how to use the monitoring data and decisions on how to better manage the environment, and best manage and implement the environmental monitoring programs. The RCMC meets regularly, is co-chaired by representatives from Red Chris and the Tahltan Nation, and includes representatives from the Tahltan, Red Chris, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, and the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Red Chris is committed to working with the RCMC in making collaborative adaptive management decisions about the environment in and around the mine site that will fulfill the long-term objectives for land use after closure.
To fulfill the commitments established in the IBCA, an Environmental Oversight Committee (EOC) has been established as a forum for dialogue between Red Chris, Tahltan Central Government and Tahltan Nation representatives. The EOC terms of reference lays out environmental management mechanisms for the committee relating to updating and approving the EMS, which is a key collaborative output of this relationship. The EOC is also responsible for oversight of the mine’s environmental compliance, monitoring and performance, providing valuable support for each and making recommendations to the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) concerning environmental matters including federal and provincial permit applications. This collaborative management of the environmental resources at Red Chris is fundamental for fulfilling commitments to accomplish the returning land use goals, and Red Chris is committed to transparency and productivity in these relationships.
Mount Polley annually updates a comprehensive environmental monitoring plan (CEMP), for the purpose of evaluating effects of mining related activities on surface and groundwater quality, sediments, soils, periphyton, phytoplankton, benthic invertebrates, zooplankton, fish, vegetation and wildlife. Supplemental monitoring plans are implemented beyond permit requirements to ensure protection of the environment. The Mount Polley mine has a positive water balance that is managed by minimizing site contact water, recycling of on-site water and enhanced evaporation techniques. Excess contact water is directed to a water treatment plant and discharged through diffusers at depth into Quesnel Lake, as authorized by an Environment Management Act permit issued by the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
The Mount Polley Public Liaison Committee (PLC) includes representatives of the mine, local First Nations, local communities including Likely, Big Lake and Horsefly, the Cariboo Regional District, and a number of provincial government agencies. The PLC meets at least quarterly to provide an opportunity for the mine to share information about mine activities and results of monitoring programs with the members, and for the members to ask questions and share information and any concerns of their constituencies with the mine. In addition to the PLC, the mine has an Implementation Committee that meets regularly with the Williams Lake Indian Band and the Soda Creek Indian Band as a component of the Partnership Agreements. The mine also hosts site tours and public meetings for local community members and distributes a community newsletter.
Mount Polley continues implementation of Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM), a program administered by the Mining Association of Canada that provides a public and transparent commitment to responsible mining. As a new operation, 2018 was the first year for Red Chris to submit a TSM report. The principles of TSM demonstrate leadership in the areas of aboriginal and community engagement, tailings management, globally recognized environmental practices, and a commitment to the safety and health of employees and surrounding communities. TSM’s tools and indicators drive performance and ensure key mining risks are managed responsibly.
Sound occupational health and safety practices is a priority for all mines. Continuous safety training and education is the foundation of maintaining a positive safety culture. Emphasis on continuing program improvements, as well as establishing new safe operating procedures where required, is managed through the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (“JOHSC”). Operating procedures are regularly reviewed and revised to ensure health and safety standards are met. Pre-task hazard assessments and job hazard analyses continue to be a priority and are essential and mandatory tools that aid in the identification of hazards and the mitigation of associated risks in order to maintain a healthy and safe work environment.
All our mines have an Independent Engineering Review Panel and Dam Safety Managers. The Tailings Operations, Maintenance and Surveillance manuals and the Emergency Preparedness and Response plans were updated in 2018.
Development and implementation of a practical, effective health and safety program is being advanced at Red Chris. The Industrial Hygiene program continues to improve, especially as it relates to the control of airborne dust. The installation of engineered dust control equipment in the Crusher and Mill has proven successful in helping to mitigate this concern. Field Level Hazard Assessments, Job Hazard Analysis and Near Miss Reporting are three key elements that are used at Red Chris in our effort to proactively identify hazards and risk and prevent injury.
Mount Polley has made improvements to various site control systems related to the mill and truck shop fire suppression, crusher building dust collection, fume and chemical exposure systems in the assay lab, mill and welding shop. The Mine Rescue Team continues to review and develop various components of its mine safety program, as well as implementation and improvement of the risk management programs. An updated Field Level Hazard Assessment has been implemented to provide a set of comprehensive tools for employees and contractors to use as part of their pre-job hazard assessment.