Our approach to environmental management at site is centered on best practices and adaptive management, as we work to meet—and often exceed—regulatory requirements in BC. We strive for ongoing evaluation and improvement of our approach to environmental management and protection. Our environmental team consists of 26 people dedicated to environmental management at the Brucejack Mine and includes biologists, environmental engineers, hydrologists, GIS specialists, water treatment plant operators, and others. In addition to operational activities, we use a risk register to identify and manage risks to our business and operation, including environmental risks, and our management team reviews and updates the risk register in quarterly meetings.
The Mine General Manager and Environmental Manager are responsible for environmental management at site on a daily basis. They report on performance and changes to the risk register to senior management and the Board, who are ultimately responsible for environmental protection. Our team also works closely with federal and provincial authorities to report on our activities at site.
The Environmental Management System (EMS) for the Brucejack Mine consists of 27 Environmental Management Plans (EMPs). The plans detail the management of different environmental aspects, such as water quality, air quality, spill response, aquatic effects, metal leaching and acid rock drainage, wildlife, vegetation, waste management, and chemicals and materials storage and handling. The EMPs cover all of our activities from exploration, mining, processing, and progressive reclamation, to eventual closure. We review these plans annually and update them as needed to continually improve our management practices. Our approach of adaptive management is based on monitoring and adapting our practices to respond to changing conditions at site and as new and increasingly efficient technologies become available.
Overall, the Brucejack Mine has a relatively small footprint. This is primarily because the mine infrastructure is located underground, and because Pretivm has made efforts to minimize the affected surface area through the design and configuration of the site. While the closure plan provides for overall reclamation and regeneration of the mine site, transmission line, and access road, we also make efforts to limit new disturbance, and progressively reclaim disturbed land each year.
Pretivm has developed and currently operates the Brucejack Mine in compliance with the stringent federal and provincial requirements designed to protect the natural environment throughout the mining lifecycle. The Canadian and British Columbian regulatory requirements governing mines are some of the most stringent in the world. Compliance with our permits and related regulatory requirements sets a high standard, and we continue to improve our practices and invest in new and efficient technologies for environmental protection and monitoring. We work with government agencies, environmental experts, and our Indigenous partners to ensure not only our compliance with environmental regulations, but also to ensure we meet the expectations of our neighbours.
To achieve our standard of environmental protection, our EMPs drive a program of environmental management, inspection, and monitoring. We document outcomes in a compliance tracking register that supports our approach of adaptive management, continual learning, and improvement. In 2019, we conducted over 500 internal inspections and audits, and were subject to a total of 11 external and independent environmental inspections at site. The outcomes of inspections, audits, and environmental monitoring each inform the ongoing improvement of our environmental management approach. Pretivm submits environmental management and compliance reports to regulatory authorities as required by the terms of our authorizations, and we also share this information with our Indigenous partners.
Despite our best efforts, incidents occasionally occur and we need to position our staff to respond and learn from experience. Our compliance register allows us to analyze trends and identify areas for improvement. Twelve reportable spills occurred in 2019. The most common source (66%) of reportable spills in 2019 related to minor releases of coolant from heavy equipment. All spills were identified, contained, and cleaned in a timely manner avoiding off-site impacts. We responded promptly to each of these events to minimize any potential impact to the environment, investigate the cause, and learn from the incident. Our actions to reduce spills of hydraulic fluid are discussed further in Spill Prevention & Response Planning. We continue to improve our overall environmental management system through the analysis of trended data and insightful reflection.
At the primary point of water quality compliance, where water flows from the Waste Rock and Tailings Storage Facility to the downstream receiving environment, we recorded no (zero) exceedances of water quality discharge limits in 2019. All exceedances were temporary in nature and remained below levels deemed to avoid significant downstream effects of aquatic life during pre-development impact assessments. Concurrent monitoring within the downstream receiving environment confirmed that water quality met objectives for protection of aquatic life or remained within natural background levels.
Caring for Our Watershed
Our ability to manage impacts on the environment is predicated on the expertise of our staff, and water management is no exception. Xavier Pinto is one of the most experienced members of Pretivm’s environmental department. He acts as a Qualified Professional (QP) on hydrometrics and meteorology, manages our water management and monitoring system, maintains key instrumentation, prepares reports for government regulators, and provides critical leadership and coaching to our junior and intermediate staff.
As an expert on hydrometrics and meteorology, Xavier is responsible for the water monitoring system at the Brucejack mine site. With past experience in the mining and oil and gas industries, and as an environmental consultant, Xavier finds work at the operating Brucejack Mine to be inherently rewarding. He notes that Pretivm is committed to excellence when it comes to water management, and appreciates that his recommendations are well received by the company.
“This is a company that sees compliance as the minimum standard, and then asks ‘what else can we do’?” Xavier Pinto, Senior Hydrologist