Materials & Waste Management
Managing materials and wastes, including hazardous products and potential sources of pollution, is fundamental to protecting water, biodiversity, and other aspects of the environment. We bring supplies to the Brucejack Mine to support operations and dispose of various waste products on- and off-site. These include mine waste, such as tailings and waste rock, and hazardous and non-hazardous materials and wastes, ranging from food and cleaning products used in the camp to fuel for vehicles and heavy equipment operations.
Our approach to the management of materials and waste is through our overall environmental management system (EMS) as described in Environmental Management. Specific management plans that pertain to materials and waste include the Chemicals and Materials Storage and Handling Plan, Tailings and Subaqueous Waste Rock Deposition Management Plan, Spill Response Plan, and the overarching Waste Management Plan.
Mine Waste & Tailings Management
Investors, regulators, the public, and Indigenous groups are increasingly focused on responsible long-term tailings management across the mining industry. While the Brucejack Mine does not include a man-made tailings pond and dam, Pretivm recognizes the importance of the responsible management of our tailings today and beyond the life of the Mine.
We have avoided a conventional tailings pond and dam (with associated risks of dam failure and long-term maintenance requirements after closure) by using features of the natural landscape including the use of Brucejack Lake, a deep, high-elevation, non-fish bearing lake as the Waste Rock and Tailings Storage Facility (WRTSF). Where possible, we deposit waste rock and tailings from the Brucejack Mine as backfill in the underground mine. We submerge the remainder of waste rock and tailings in the WRTSF. Water bodies in the vicinity of the Mine are naturally high in dissolved metals from the surrounding geology, and there are no fish in the water bodies adjacent to the Mine or WRTSF. This natural environment provided an opportunity for Pretivm to avoid the need for a conventional tailings dam. Our approach greatly reduces risk to the environment and liability to Pretivm associated with mine waste, as waste rock and tailings will remain submerged at depth with no requirement to maintain a dam or containment structure. This effectively eliminates the critical health and safety risks associated with conventional tailings dams and storage facilities, while also preventing acid rock drainage and airborne emissions of fine particulates that are associated with other forms of tailings management. We monitor the quality of water in the WRTSF and downstream water bodies to ensure we continue to protect them as part of our watershed management program.
In 2019, we mined 1,359,403 tonnes at the Brucejack Mine and produced 773,000 tonnes of waste rock. Of these, 751,000 tonnes were disposed in the WRTSF and we used the remainder as backfill and around the site as part of operations and progressive reclamation. In addition to waste rock, 781,000 dry metric tonnes of tailings were disposed in the WRTSF.
Operation of the WRTSF is governed by an operation management system and is subject to annual independent technical review. In addition, potential risks of metal leaching and acid rock drainage associated with storage of waste materials are managed under a Metal Leaching and Acid Rock Drainage Management Plan.
Refuse & Recycling
At the mine site, we separate refuse into different streams for disposal and recycling, including waste materials from kitchens and offices, workshops, maintenance yards, and other facilities. Waste streams include general refuse, cardboard, plastics, metals, burnable wood, non-burnable wood, electronics, and hydrocarbons. Our on-site waste management department is responsible for the program and aims to maximize recycling and re-use, and minimize the volumes of waste transported off-site for disposal. In 2019, we disposed of 987 tonnes of non-hazardous waste off-site at authorized regional waste facilities including 118 tonnes (12% of total off-site disposal) that were recycled.
At the Brucejack Mine site, we consolidate scrap metal, which is re-used by a contractor. We recycle cardboard and domestic recyclable materials. We incinerate burnable wood and domestic refuse at the site, and transport non-burnable wood for off-site disposal. All employees receive instruction in the waste management program so that they know how to handle and dispose of different waste products.
Hazardous Materials Handling & Disposal
As part of Brucejack Mine operations, handling of hazardous materials (such as diesel fuel and hydraulic fluids) is a necessary part of our day-to-day activities. In 2019, we used 7,354,170 litres of diesel and 299,082 litres of gasoline. We track, manage, and measure all hydrocarbons stored and handled at site as part of the overall environmental management system, which clearly assigns responsibilities for tasks such as fuel-level tracking.
Pretivm contracts a licensed external company to transport and properly dispose of hazardous waste products. These products range from oily rags and paint containers to excavated soil that has been contaminated by a spill. In 2019, 390 tonnes of hazardous waste materials required off-site disposal at appropriate facilities including used batteries, used oil, used coolant, hydrocarbon contaminated material and soil, and sludge from our on-site sewage treatment and septic facilities.
Spill prevention is something we proactively promote every day, and integrate throughout our management plans and practices. Pretivm’s environmental management system includes standards of practice for activities such as fueling, materials handing and transportation, mechanical works, and other activities that could lead to a spill. While we prefer to focus on prevention, we also ensure that we are prepared to respond when needed. All of our workers receive training in spill response so that we can quickly take action if a spill does occur. In the event of an unplanned release, our staff are prepared to respond to minimize effects on the environment.
If a spill exceeds a certain threshold (which varies by substance), we are obligated to report it to provincial authorities—but in practice, we record and report every spill internally. Our spill reports document the time and place, cause of the spill, response measures, and new measures created to prevent a reoccurrence in the future. Site managers report this information (for both reportable and non-reportable spills) to Pretivm’s senior management and the Board of Directors.
We also look at our performance data to identify trends, areas for improvement, and opportunities for enhanced management. In 2019, we reviewed our spill statistics indicated and noticed that most of our spills were minor releases of hydraulic fluid or coolant related to hydraulic/coolant hose failures on heavy equipment. This was a similar result to our findings in 2018. We are continuing to educate workers and contractors on examining the hoses and identifying flaws that may present a risk, as well as actions to proactively replace or remedy faulty hoses. Overall, we saw a reduction in the number of spills in 2019 versus 2018.