British Columbia has a rich and varied natural landscape and Pretivm views biodiversity protection as one of our core responsibilities. Demonstrating our management approach to ecology and biodiversity is also important to our relationship with Indigenous groups.
The Brucejack Mine sits above the treeline in alpine tundra at an elevation of 1,400 metres. The land is rocky and there is not a lot of soil to support vegetation or animal habitat around the mine site. Natural conditions in the area—including elevation, poor quality of growth media, location at the headwaters, and proximity to glaciers—contribute to slow-growing and sparse vegetation. The transmission line and access road extend through lower elevations in areas with mature vegetation and wildlife. Wildlife known to frequent areas near the access road include wolves, goats, bears, and moose, among other mammals, as well as birds and amphibians.
Our environmental management system (EMS) governs our interaction with this unique natural setting, as described in Environmental Management. In collaboration with Indigenous groups and regulatory agencies, we have developed a suite of environmental management plans (EMPs) that describe our conservation measures and monitoring efforts. Biodiversity-related EMPs include the Vegetation Management Plan, Invasive Plants Management Plan, Aquatic Effects Monitoring Plan, Mountain Goat Management Plan, and overall Wildlife Management Plan. Our progressive reclamation program is also part of our commitment to protecting biodiversity.
Wildlife Advisory Committee
We are strongly committed to ongoing engagement with Indigenous groups through the Wildlife Advisory Committee for the Brucejack Mine. The Wildlife Advisory Committee includes representatives from the Nisga’a Nation, Tahltan Nation, Tsetsaut Skii km Lax Ha, and provincial government. We engage with the Committee through meetings and other communications to exchange information about wildlife sightings and encounters and to share updates about our management approach. Engagement is ongoing throughout the year. We respect and appreciate the Committee’s input, which contributes to the improvement of our management approach to protect the ecology and biodiversity of the area.
Recent topics of discussion with the Wildlife Advisory Committee have included measures to reduce wildlife attractants at the mine site, results of wildlife monitoring activities (including documented wildlife mortalities since 2015), and information about traffic and access procedures on the access road.
Impacts on Wildlife & Habitat
Pretivm’s management approach is designed to avoid negative impacts on biodiversity while creating small yet meaningful benefits. To date, there have been no significant negative impacts on wildlife and habitat from the development and operation of the Brucejack Mine. Interactions or concerns that do arise are discussed with the Wildlife Advisory Committee and reported to senior management and the Board of Directors.
As with any place of human activity, activities at the Brucejack Mine can present a risk of attracting wildlife if not managed appropriately. To keep wildlife and people safe, Pretivm limits attractants at the mine site and all associated facilities. We store refuse indoors—or outdoors in bear-proof containers—so as not to attract or be accessible to wildlife. To reduce the potential for interactions with wildlife, we train our employees to follow strict waste management practices, to drive at safe speeds, and to report any wildlife observations or incidents. We regularly engage with our workforce to reinforce the importance of these activities, and communicate new initiatives or changes in management.
Protected Areas & Protected Species
Protected areas in the general region of Brucejack Mine include a provincial park and provincially designated Wildlife Habitat Areas including Ungulate Winter Range. Pretivm is committed to avoiding adverse impacts to all protected areas and have recorded no impacts to date. There are no internationally recognized protected areas (e.g. IUCN or UNESCO) in the vicinity of the mine.
As typical of this remote region, a number of protected species are found in the vicinity of the Brucejack Mine. Of note, the western toad (Anaxyrus boreas) is identified federally as a Species of Special Concern under the Species at Risk Act in Canada, as are the grizzly bear, wolverine, barn swallow, and olive-sided flycatcher. The little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), also found in the area around the Mine, is federally listed as Endangered under both the Species at Risk Act in Canada and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. The olive-sided flycatcher is also listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List™. Pretivm’s environmental department manages a number of innovative biodiversity programs to support the conservation of these and other species. This includes tunnels to help the western toad safely cross the access road and bat boxes in trees that provide roost habitat for the little brown myotis bat. We also have strict policies that govern the use and routes of aircraft, in an effort to reduce potential disturbance to mountain goats, and robust waste management protocols to mitigate potential impacts on grizzly bear. In addition, Pretivm ensures protection of breeding birds, such as olive-sided flycatcher, by conducting land clearing activities outside of the breeding season or conducting pre-clearing surveys for nests if construction must occur during the sensitive timing window.
In an effort to protect the western toad population near to the Mine, we have installed a series of “Toad Tunnels” at relevant locations along the Brucejack Access Road. These tunnels provide safe passage for toads and keep the toads off the road during their migrations (twice each year). Fences direct toads to the tunnels and signage along our access road reminds drivers to slow down. Should a toad manage to find a way up on the access road during their migration, the animals are hand-collected in buckets and afforded safe transport to the other side of the road. To further our protection of the western toad in 2019, we conducted ground surveys and installed motion sensors and remote cameras to monitor toad use of the tunnels. In 2019, we recorded 640 individual toads using the tunnels, and we collected and transported an additional 94 toads. Of all toads observed, 87% were using tunnels, indicating that the tunnels are effectively reducing exposure of the western toad to vehicle traffic.
640 western toads
recorded using tunnels, compared to 665 individuals in 2018
94 western toads
transported by hand, compared to 185 individuals in 2018
Landscape Protection & Progressive Reclamation
The Mines Act permit for the Brucejack Mine covers a permitted area of disturbance of 465.1 ha.1 However, the actual area of disturbance for the mine site is much smaller at 60.9 ha, or approximately 13% of the permitted area. The Mine’s small footprint benefits from the fact that the mine infrastructure is located underground, and Pretivm has made efforts to design surface infrastructure to be compact and space efficient.
When disturbance of land cannot be avoided we are committed to mitigating impacts where we can. Ground altering activity is guided by our Environmental Management System and associated management plans intended to minimize the impact to the environment and promote future successful reclamation including plans for erosion prevention and sediment control, invasive plant, soil, and vegetation management (see also Environmental Management).
Reclamation Progress to Date
We recognize the importance of all ecosystems—even those sparse in flora and fauna—and continue to work with regulators, Indigenous groups, and other stakeholders to safeguard them. Our first priority is to avoid new disturbance, and reclaim disturbed areas when unavoidable. Pretivm is committed to progressive reclamation of land that has been disturbed but no longer anticipated to be required to support project activities. The objective of any reclamation effort is to return land near to its natural condition.
We run our reclamation program with the expertise of our in-house biologists and ecologists, and seek specialized advice from external researchers and experts as needed. We have collected a variety of native plant species from the area, such as willows and alders, and work with a nursery in Telkwa, BC, to propagate seedlings that we can use as part of our progressive reclamation program.
Following construction of the transmission line in 2015, anchor sites were seeded with native species, and these plants continue to grow undisturbed. We have also revegetated former construction areas along the length of the access road. Revegetation efforts in 2019 focused on staging areas used during construction of the transmission line, as well as sites at lower elevations of the access road. To date, we have made efforts to revegetate approximately 92 hectares of land, including 2.35 hectares in 2019, which will contribute to progressive reclamation of these areas as planted vegetation continues to grow.
Sharing the Mountains
The mountains that surround the Brucejack Mine are home to a wonderful array of creatures great and small, none more astounding than the Mountain Goat. A keen eye may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these death-defying mountaineers as they traverse cliffs and crags. Pretivm has made it a mission to share the mountains with all our neighbors, including the goats, and we use the best available science to help prevent human-wildlife interactions.
In partnership and consultation with professional biologists, government and local Indigenous groups, Pretivm has developed a Mountain Goat Management Plan. As outlined in the plan, the most critical mitigation activity is avoidance. This means giving the goats the space they need to live undisturbed in the mountains. When there is a chance that our operations may interact with Mountain Goats, we complete a thorough ‘goat presence’ survey of the area before beginning work, such as blasting for avalanche protection and prevention. Helicopter pilots are also educated in flight operations to minimize potential impacts on Mountain Goats and follow preferred flight paths whenever safe to do so.
There have been no recorded incidents involving Mountain Goats since the start of construction and operations, and goats continue to occupy habitat observed during baseline environmental studies. In 2019, we observed 29 Mountain Goats around the Mine and successfully avoided interaction.