Early last year, New Gold announced an extension in mine life for the New Afton Mine to 2030, but that is not stopping a group of New Afton employees from leading an innovative project to mitigate the social impacts when operations inevitably do wind down in the future.
“Our employees, along with a steering committee of our management team, developed our Beyond New Afton (BNA) committee well over a year ago,” said Scott Davidson, the company’s manager of environment, lands and permitting.
“Mines have long been held to a strict standard pertaining to our environmental closure plans, but we’ve found there are few industry standards when it comes to the social impacts of closure and how we can help reduce those impacts when we wind down our operations. That is what our BNA committee and our consultants seek to find out with our Beyond New Afton Project.”
New Afton, a copper and gold mine about 10 kilometres west of Kamloops, employs 610 people, works with many contractors and suppliers and regularly supports local non-profit organizations. Because minerals are a limited resource, eventually the ore in the ground will be removed and an operation will close. Although the New Afton Mine is not scheduled to close any time soon, the idea was to start the planning process now to be proactive.
One of the BNA committee members is Korah De Walt-Gagnon, First Nations co-ordinator for New Afton. She looks at the project as a way of developing community-focused solutions and ideas by involving the community.
“Our team knows that when we bring many diverse voices to the table, we have the opportunity to understand different perspectives and hear creative ideas,” De Walt-Gagnon said. “Not only does our BNA committee include employees from different parts of our mine operations, but our Beyond New Afton Project will be making a survey available to anyone from the community who wishes to participate. For our committee, we need this to be collaborative and innovative because we all believe this is the right thing to do.”
Five key communities of interest were identified early in the process by the BNA committee. These groups had the potential to be most impacted by the mine winding down operations and include New Afton employees and their spouses/partners, New Afton contractors and suppliers, members of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and the Skeetchestn Indian Band and Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation.
“We are doing more one-to-one engagement with these five groups and started engaging our employees and contractors last week,” De Walt-Gagnon said.
After the input from stakeholders is received, the next step will include validating the information to then develop a Beyond New Afton Plan. This plan will be a living document updated every few years to ensure strategies to mitigate social impacts are relevant and assist in a smooth transition upon notice of closure.
“We are interested in what future looking strategies our First Nations partners, employees, contractors and vendors, plus others within the community will share,” Davidson said. “We believe this is a holistic look at closure which we hope becomes a gold standard for other larger employers and mines to emulate.”
The community is invited to take the survey at www.bit.ly/BeyondNewAfton.