October 2019 – Making Waves

With a mission to inform, empower, celebrate and advocate for British Columbia's current and aspiring business leaders, BCBusiness go behind the headlines and bring readers face to face with the key issues and people driving business in B.C.

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B.C.'s Elk Valley has a long history of mining, the southeastern area of the province being one of the world's richest in coal used to make steel. As North Coal Limited explores the area's Crowsnest coal- field, the Sparwood-based emerging Steel Making Coal producer is starting out with two crucial considerations: reclamation and closure. In other words, as it sets out plans for the proposed Michel Coal Project, North Coal is first ensuring that the land will be restored to a natural, functioning state once the mine closes approxi- mately 25 - 30 years from now. It's a progressive approach that minimizes environmental impacts, and strives to keep the ecosystem healthy through- out the mines entire lifespan. "In preparing for mining, we must consider closure from the very beginning." says North Coal president John Pumphrey. "We have the opportu- nity to use new technologies and the best science that's out there to reclaim as we go." "Progressive reclamation, which means reclaim- ing disturbed lands once work is completed, assists in managing for air, water and wildlife habi- tat maintenance and protection," he adds. "Based on past experience, we know what works and we know how to do better." The Michel Coal project lies within the traditional territories of the Ktunaxa First Nation and includes the Loop Ridge and Michel Head deposits. Ulti- mately, the goal of closure and reclamation is to return the land as a place where people can hunt, fish, trap and gather. North Coal developed this objective through engagement with land users and the Ktunaxa Nation Council. A new model for development In taking a rigorous environmental approach to mining, North Coal is doing things differently, having paused the regulatory process to allow sufficient time to explore its 7,000-hectare licence area (with a disturbance area of 1,400 hectares), collect baseline data and optimize mine design. Its project description for the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office and the Canadian Environ- mental Assessment Agency features findings of environmental studies and input from the Ktunaxa Nation, scientists, engineers, applicable regulators, community members and others, all for a mine design that minimizes landscape alteration and leaves a smaller environmental footprint. Geotechnical engineer Mike O'Kane of O'Kane Consultants, explains that North Coal is taking an innovative approach to the construction of the mine rock storage facilities, expanding on geotechnical stability. By building it from the bottom up with thin- ner layers, the structure will be more air-tight than many conventional mines. "That allows us to manage the amount of gas— the amount of oxygen—that can move within the mine rock stockpile," O'Kane says. "It allows us to better manage gas transport and therefore we have In building the Michel Coal project in B.C.'s southeast, North Coal is looking ahead to the day the mining ends PLANNING FOR THE LONG TERM PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY NORTH COAL Members of reclamation and closure study group survey the land.

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