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TSM Excellence Awards 2024

Each year, the TSM Excellence Awards highlight outstanding community engagement and environmental initiatives at facilities that are implementing TSM. The awards selection committee, comprised of members of MAC’s national Community of Interest Advisory Panel, received several excellent nominations for the awards and acknowledged the range of important sustainability initiatives being undertaken by Canadian mining companies. This year, the committee chose to highlight the projects that they felt to be truly innovative and demonstrative of leading practice. This led to the identification of one winner and two finalists in the Community Engagement category and a single winner in the Environment category.

TSM Environmental Excellence Award

Winner – Rio Tinto IOC – Abandoned Site Rehabilitation Partnership: Nitassinan Cleanup

In partnership with the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Sustainable Development Institute (FNQLSDI), IOC is helping to clean up old outfitting facilities and legacy dumpsites on Nitassinan, the ancestral homeland of the Innu. By using IOC rail cars to recover and transport the discarded materials along the 418-km stretch of QNS&L Railway to Sept-Îles, Rio Tinto has found a unique way to rebuild lasting relationships with members of the Uashat Mak-Mani Utenam community and offer an expanded approach to environmental reclamation and remediation.

As part of this project, FNQLSDI environmental specialists, members of the Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam community and machinery operators are dismantling decommissioned buildings and infrastructure and cleaning up abandoned sites and facilities. The goal is to restore the land as close to its original state as possible. The team at QNS&L Railway, which is owned by IOC, handles the logistics of transporting the materials and provides all the necessary equipment.

Once the FNQLSDI team has prepared the materials, the QNS&L team loads the materials into railway cars for shipment by train to Sept-Îles. IOC’s Environment Department ensures the materials are transported and disposed of in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations (e.g., by providing collection containers). The safe transport and disposal of residual hazardous materials is all handled free of charge.

The QNS&L railway is the only link between Sept-Îles and northern communities, both for passenger services (Tshiuetin Rail Transportation) and the transportation of goods and ore. The railway is also the only overland route into Nitassinan. It’s a very busy railway and adding this type of project to the already complex logistics during the summer maintenance period requires significant coordination between the various teams, particularly since the equipment used for recovery and transportation is generally used only for the railway maintenance program.

Rio Tinto IOC’s role in the FNQLSDI’s program for the restoration of abandoned sites meets well defined goals for Indigenous communities, particularly that of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam. It increases the company’s understanding of Innu land use and traditional knowledge and allows IOC to build connections and deepen relationships with various communities of interest.

Building strong collaborative relationships in a context that extends beyond IOC’s regular operations has been a key component in the creation and maintenance of trusted relationships with communities. Rio Tinto believes that all mining companies have a role to play and need to broadly support their local communities, even if that means stepping outside the usual framework.

TSM Environmental Excellence Award

Winner – Filtered Tailings Management at Agnico Eagle’s Laronde Mine

Since its inception in 1988, the LaRonde Mining Complex had been utilizing slurry tailings deposition, reaching maximum storage capacity over the years. Seeking additional storage space became imperative, leading to the launch of a transformative project. The transition to filtered tailings management was aimed at addressing environmental concerns, while also ensuring operational efficiency and community well-being.

A comprehensive comparative study conducted by a dedicated task force assessed various storage approaches, considering operational, investment, and rehabilitation costs. All factors combined, even though the capital investment was higher, the transition to filtered tailings emerged as the most viable option on the long term.

The transition to filtered tailings represents a paradigm shift in mining practices. Notably, the LaRonde Complex stands as the first Canadian mine to complete the transition of stacking tailings on top of slurry beaches inside of existing tailings storage facilities, thereby minimizing its environmental footprint.

Key innovations include the utilization of waste rock between the filtered tailings and the slurry beaches to reinforce them. This process eliminates the need for costly ground improvement measures. Additionally, a storage basin was built to store process water and manage rainfall, eliminating the need to store large quantities of water in the tailings pond, and thereby reducing associated risks. Finally, filtered tailings can also be repurposed, for example, to facilitate the reclamation of old tailings storage facilities, enhance progressive rehabilitation or be used as backfill material.

Stakeholder engagement emerged as a driving factor of success with this project, with Agnico Eagle actively involving community representatives and regulatory bodies throughout the project lifecycle. This collaborative approach fostered transparency and ensured that sustainability goals were aligned with local concerns and regulatory requirements.

While each mining site presents unique challenges, the success of the LaRonde Complex project underscores the potential for broader applicability. By considering operational costs, as well as rehabilitation and environmental factors, mines worldwide can explore similar transitions to filtered tailings management.

Community Engagement Excellence Award

Winner – Eldorado Gold Planning for Social Closure at Lamaque

Advanced planning to address the social impacts of a mine closure is a nascent practice. While the profound social impacts that a mine’s closure can have on communities are well-known, they are often not addressed until the mine is nearing the end of its operating life.

Eldorado Gold Québec is demonstrating exceptional forethought and proactivity in the development of its mine closure plan for the Complexe Minier Lamaque. Despite the fact that the mine’s operating life is projected to be at least 8 more years, the company has already drawn up an action and public participation plan for the social aspects related to the closure of its Lamaque mine.

A working group has been created, with a mandate to establish the vision, identify the risks and opportunities to be considered, create an action plan and identify measurable success factors for the six planning components identified by the Monitoring Committee: Community Contributions, Future Site Uses, Employment and Lifestyle, Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation, Landscape and Heritage, and Safety.

Eldorado is welcoming the active involvement of all stakeholders, including local communities, employees, regional authorities, and environmental groups, at a very early stage in its planning process, enabling various viewpoints to be considered and ensuring that all decisions are acceptable and beneficial to all parties.

Eldorado’s early approach to the social closure of Lamaque is an exemplary practice for all mine operators to include social considerations in reclamation and rehabilitation plans.

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