Canadians are at the forefront as a new institute launched to improve land-reclamation practices in the worldwide resource-extraction sector.
The Landform Design Institute was inaugurated in September with veteran geotechnical engineer Gord McKenna as founder. McKenna, the principal of Delta, B.C.-based McKenna Geotechnical Inc., has seen reclamation practices improve significantly in the past 30 years but has also witnessed flagrant mining industry failures such as the Faro Mine in Yukon Territory and the Giant Mine in the Northwest Territories where cleanups are costing Canadian taxpayers billions.
“It is a huge challenge. It costs anything from tens of millions of dollars up to billions for the reclamation of large mines following a closure,” he said. “There is some real work to be done to ensure you and I the taxpayer aren’t paying for these sites.
“The landform design approach is meant to be clear about what we are trying to achieve and finding ways of doing it better.”
Landform design brings together the skills of civil and mining engineers, ecologists, geologists and others to reclaim mining and oil resource lands. Regulators, the energy and mining sectors, local communities and several levels of government may also be involved in creating or overseeing plans for resource lands once they fall into disuse.
The institute is intended to have global reach, given that many mining companies are multinationals active around the world and there are lessons to be learned from private and public sector initiatives in such jurisdictions as British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec in Canada and Australia and Brazil internationally, McKenna said.
Decades ago, miners would often devise a reclamation plan when the end of the mine was approaching but today plans are often built into environmental approvals.
“Reclamation is practised at just about every mine,” McKenna said. “But reaching a satisfactory outcome requires a stronger emphasis on…