Pretivm’s Brucejack Mine is located in a remote region of northern British Columbia, in a natural landscape distant from communities and industrial centres. The Mine is set above the treeline at an elevation of 1,400 metres amongst the alpine tundra. There is sparse vegetation and animal activity in the area due to the lack of soil around the mine site, high elevation, poor quality of growth media, and proximity to glaciers. At lower elevations where our transmission line and access road are located, there is mature vegetation and habitat for mammals like wolves, goats, bears, and moose, as well as birds and amphibians. As we continue to operate in this rich ecosystem, we acknowledge that we have a responsibility to manage our impacts and protect the area’s ecology and biodiversity.
Our environmental management system governs all activities at the Mine to ensure that we avoid or minimize environmental impacts, as described in Environmental Management. Five of our environmental management plans focus on biodiversity-related management, including the Vegetation Management Plan, Invasive Plants Management Plan, Aquatic Effects Monitoring Plan, Mountain Goat Management Plan, and overarching Wildlife Management Plan. These plans are regularly reviewed internally and externally in collaboration with Indigenous groups through the Wildlife Advisory Committee (below), and updated to align with best practices and learnings from prior years.
Wildlife Advisory Committee
The Wildlife Advisory Committee is an important part of our ongoing engagement with and commitment to Indigenous groups through collaborative biodiversity management for the Brucejack Mine. The Committee includes members from the Nisga’a Nation, Tahltan Nation, Tsetsaut Skii km Lax Ha, and provincial government, and we meet regularly to discuss our approach to wildlife and biodiversity management and any updates to related management plans. In 2020, topics included results of wildlife monitoring and information about traffic and procedures on the access road. In addition to communication throughout the year, we hold an annual meeting with the Committee in the summer. In 2020, we shifted to a virtual format for the Committee meetings due to COVID-19.
Impacts on Wildlife & Habitat
Just as we prioritize the wellbeing of our people and communities, our approach to wildlife management prioritizes the wellbeing of the animals and habitats that may be affected by our activities. Despite having sparse wildlife and vegetation surrounding the high-elevation Brucejack Mine, there is always a risk of attracting wildlife with inadequate management and attractants. We train our employees to follow strict waste management practices, store refuse indoors, or store it outdoors in bear-proof containers so that wildlife cannot access it. Vehicle operators are required to drive at safe speeds and report any wildlife observations or incidents. We regularly engage with our workforce to reinforce the importance of these activities, communicate new initiatives, receive feedback on wildlife management procedures, and inform about new changes in management. As a result, the Brucejack Mine has not had a significant negative impact on surrounding wildlife and habitats to date. If an incident does arise, our Manager of Environment and Regulatory Affairs discusses it with the Wildlife Advisory Committee and reports to senior management and the Board of Directors.
Protected Areas & Protected Species
We are committed to avoiding adverse impacts for all species and habitats around the region of the Brucejack Mine. Protected areas in the general region include provincially designated Wildlife Habitat Areas such as the Ungulate Winter Range. There are a number of provincial parks throughout Northwest BC, the nearest being the Border Lake Provincial Park approximately 60 km southwest of the Mine. To date, Pretivm has not recorded any impacts to protected areas or species. There are no internationally recognized protected areas (e.g. IUCN or UNESCO) in our mine’s vicinity.
A number of protected species are found in the vicinity of the Brucejack Mine. Of note, the western toad (Anaxyrus boreas) is federally identified 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 listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List™. Our environmental department manages a number of innovative biodiversity programs to support the conservation of these and other species including: tunnels to protect migrating western toads; bat boxes to provide roost habitat; strict policies that govern the use and routes of aircraft to reduce mountain goat disturbance; and protection of breeding birds when planning land-clearing activities.
In an effort to protect the western toad population near 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 them off the road during their migrations which occur 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 its 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. In 2020, we also conducted ground surveys and installed remote cameras with motion sensors to monitor toad use of the tunnels. Although prior years have recorded hundreds of migrating toads, 2020 proved to be a very different year. We recorded only 10 toads using the tunnels, and we collected and transported an additional six toads. Discussions with biologists suggested that the lack of toad migration was a regional phenomenon due to an unusually cold spring and summer.
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.