Pretivm has firmly established itself as a gold producer with a strong commitment to environmental and social performance. We expect to continue to operate the Brucejack Mine until 2032—notwithstanding ongoing exploration and any future development efforts—and we are looking at how we can further reduce impacts, be more effective, and find ways to continually improve our environmental management.
Our approach to environmental management at site is centered on industry 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 Environment team consists of 26 people including biologists, environmental engineers, hydrologists, hydrogeologists, water treatment plant operators, and others. We maintain a risk register to identify and manage risks to our business and operations that includes environmental risks, which is reviewed for performance and updated quarterly by our senior management team and the Board.
The Mine General Manager and Manager of Environment and Regulatory Affairs are responsible for environmental management at the Brucejack Mine on a daily basis. In 2020, we bolstered the accountability around environmental performance with the onboarding of our VP Environment and Regulatory Affairs, a new position introduced to the company in late 2019, who provides direct oversight of the site-based environmental team. This strengthened connection with our corporate management team signals the importance of environmental management for our company’s relationships with regulators, investors, Indigenous groups and other stakeholders, ensuring we conduct our daily operations with the goal of protecting the natural environment. The environmental team is integral to many of the activities undertaken daily at the mine site and works closely with federal and provincial authorities, as well as our Indigenous partners to report on activities at the mine site.
Environmental Management System
Our environmental management system comprises 26 Environmental Management Plans (EMPs). These plans address the management of different aspects of the environment, from water quality, air quality, aquatic effects, wildlife, and vegetation, to topics such as spill response, metal leaching and acid rock drainage, waste management, and safe handling and storage of chemicals and materials. The EMPs are informed by engagement with Indigenous groups and regulatory agencies, and cover our activities from exploration, mining, processing, and progressive reclamation, to eventual closure. Plans are reviewed annually and updated as needed to continually improve our management practices. Our adaptive management approach relies on monitoring activities so we can adapt to changing conditions at site as well as incorporate new and increasingly efficient technologies as they become available.
Overall, the Brucejack Mine has a relatively small footprint, primarily due to the mine infrastructure being located underground. Additionally, Pretivm has made efforts to minimize the affected surface area through the design and configuration of the site. Our EMPs support our efforts to keep our footprint small by monitoring downstream effects and minimizing our interactions with the natural environment. While the Mine 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. Further information about our EMPs—and related environmental protection measures—is provided in Watershed Management, Energy & Climate Change, Effluent & Waste Management, Protecting Biodiversity, and Reclamation & Closure.
We evaluate the effectiveness of our environmental management system through internal inspections and audits, annual reporting to regulators, and annual review and updates to management plans. In 2020, we commissioned a voluntary third-party review of our waste rock and tailings storage facility and related management systems. Although we do not have a conventional tailings impoundment and/or tailings dam at the Brucejack Mine, safe and effective tailings management is one of our top priorities and we undertook this review to identify potential areas for improvement and modernization.
Our new 2020 values encompass all activities across all sites including our environmental management. Our management systems depend on our people, and our values of safety, respect, teamwork, care, and integrity guide their day-to-day activities. We support our workers and contractors in their environmental care and stewardship by asking that our values be considered alongside all operational decisions.
In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, non-essential staff—including some members of the environmental team—worked remotely to minimize contact between workers at the mine site. With fewer resources on site, our standards did not falter as we focused on maintaining our management plans and practices and remaining in compliance with our permits. Although challenging at times, the pandemic also provided an opportunity to evaluate our processes and systems to ensure they are robust and resilient to change. We are proud to report that we had zero material environmental incidents during this period.
internal environmental inspections and audits conducted in 2020
environmental management plans that guide our activities at the Brucejack Mine
exceedances of water quality discharge limits
samples of water and other environmental samples analyzed in 2020
We operate the Brucejack Mine in compliance with rigorous 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 not only comply with environmental regulations, but to also ensure we meet the expectations of neighbouring communities and Indigenous groups.
We updated the 5-year mine plan and closure/reclamation plan for the Brucejack Mine in 2020 as required by our mining permit. We also calibrated our water quality model, developed during the original environmental assessment and permitting processes, with real data from our mine operations to date and updated our predictions of water quality impacts over the mine life and after mine closure accordingly.
Our program of internal inspection and monitoring is fundamental to the success of our environmental management system and EMPs. In 2020, we conducted over 570 internal inspections and audits, and hosted one external and independent environmental inspection at the mine site. We report our findings as compliance reports to regulatory authorities as required by the terms of our authorizations, and we share this information with our Indigenous partners. Due to pandemic-related travel and physical distancing restrictions, there were no inspections conducted by provincial or federal authorities in 2020; these programs were reinstated in early 2021. Regardless, Pretivm is pleased to report no issues of non-compliance for water quality or other environmental parameters in 2020, including water quality of discharge from the Waste Rock and Tailings Storage Facility to the downstream environment (as described in Watershed Management).
We document findings in a compliance tracking register that supports our adaptive management approach and continued improvement. 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. Six reportable spills occurred in 2020, as described in Effluent & Waste Management. We responded promptly to each of these events to minimize any potential impact to the environment, investigate the cause, and learn from the incident. We continue to improve our overall environmental management system through the analysis of trended data and insightful reflection.
Taking a Leadership Role Across Teams
With 10 years of experience in the mining industry, Harrison Mazur brings a wealth of knowledge to his role as Environmental Scientist. An outdoor enthusiast in his spare time, he speaks from personal experience when teaching people about the wildlife around the mine and how to have safe interactions. This ranges from bears wandering into camp to swallows diving at people’s heads to protect their nests.
At the Brucejack Mine, reclamation does not start after the end of mining but is a continuous process of progressive reclamation throughout the Life of Mine. A highlight for Harrison is watching the reclaimed areas come to life and seeing nature regenerate in cleared areas.
Apart from his work on the environmental team, safety is an important part in both his personal and his work life. The experience he has gained as a volunteer fire fighter in his home community of Telkwa can be directly applied to his leadership role on the Brucejack ERT team where he provides training and mentorship to the other team members as the team expands and takes on new challenges.