Reclamation and Closure Planning
Planning for a mine’s closure begins at the design stage and continues through the mine’s life to ensure the physical and chemical stability of the waste material and structures that will be left behind. New Gold operations practise progressive rehabilitation of lands affected by its activity as soon as areas become available after operations cease. We also rehabilitate historic mining areas within our leases. Each of our mines has obtained regulatory approval for its closure rehabilitation plans, which are reviewed and updated regularly.
In 2014 we started developing the New Gold Integrated Closure Standard. The standard will provide guidance to sites such that time frames for closure planning are set and are included in operational decisions related to the different phases of mining. This includes adequate financial, physical and human resources and ensures that local communities’ interests are understood and considered in the closure process. The 2015 goal is to finalize and implement the New Gold Integrated Closure Standard at all sites.
At New Gold sites, environmental stewardship means more than applying restoration practices to lands that are affected by mining to promote natural biodiversity. It also means conserving or enhancing biodiversity on lands that are undisturbed by mining operations. New Gold has also made various contributions to biodiversity conservation including significant donations to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. In 2014 our donation assisted the organization to complete the purchase of the Napier Lake Ranch.
At New Afton, we have reclaimed an area around an old bunker that has provided roosting habitat for bat species. This “bat cave” has been designed to minimize any disturbance to these creatures and to mimic a natural cave. Studies are planned to evaluate how this facility is being used and which species are using it. Also at New Afton, we have started researching the metrics that will be used at the end of mine life. The mine has partnered with the University of Guelph Barcode of Life program in which insect species are sampled over a number of days. Once a sample is taken, its contents are ground up and the DNA extracted and analyzed. This analysis provides the user with the number of species within the sample in minutes, a task that traditionally is fraught with error and can take months. Using this technique, New Afton can gauge the success of reclamation activities by comparing species richness between a reclaimed site and a comparable undisturbed site. When coupled with the grassland reclamation research performed by Thomson Rivers University, New Afton will have an excellent understanding of how best to reclaim the site and work to retain its biodiversity when the time comes for closure.
Starting in 2014, on-site and off-site restoration activities are reported separately. The approximated figures for on-site restoration activities include only areas under rehabilitation within our mining leases. Off-site restoration activities include the areas where our sites have developed rehabilitation work outside of our mining leases, such as the reforestation work at Monte Caldera, in close proximity to the Cerro San Pedro Mine.
Our Cerro San Pedro Mine is scheduled to start its first phase of closure later this year. We operate an in-house plant nursery that has produced about 610,000 plants of various species since 2011. In 2014 we produced 135,000 plants. The nursery is the cornerstone of our reforestation and revegetation program and employs people from several local communities. Besides working on reclamation within the mine site, we are returning off-site areas heavily deforested by logging activities to their former state, planting approximately 1,100 plants per hectare to offset land disturbed by mining. Our off-site reforestation objective is to cover nearly 373 hectares of land while the mine is in operation. The 2014 reforestation campaign at Monte Caldera included a total area of 90 hectares. We have covered over 300 hectares to date.