Grande Cache Coal's (GCC) Environmental Policy is to conduct operations in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner, and to achieve reclamation to productive land uses when mining is completed.
GCC's operations are located in a mountain setting that supports a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, caribou and grizzly bears. To protect wildlife and maintain employee safety, GCC maintains several monitoring programs for key wildlife species such as mountain goats and caribou. GCC has also initiated a “Critter Card” program that enlists all employees in reporting locations of wildlife in project areas. Employees are alerted to areas of wildlife activity, such as wildlife crossing locations on haul roads, and mine activities are then adjusted as appropriate to maintain the safety of both wildlife and employees. Mining operations co-exist with wildlife populations and monitoring to date has demonstrated that wildlife can and has adapted to mining activity.
GCC entered the regulatory approvals process in 2000. This included the completion of a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Grande Cache Project, encompassing No. 7 Underground Operation and No. 8 Pit as well as coal processing infrastructure. The EIA identified environmental sensitivities that require management in and near GCC's operations areas.
GCC's EIA identified a population of rare species of stream saxifrage (Saxifraga odontoloma) in the No. 7 Underground Operation portal area. GCC started a mitigation program in order to ensure that this population is preserved and re-established after mining is completed. Selected plants within the portal area were salvaged in summer 2004 and propagated in a laboratory growth chamber for later introduction back into the field. Transplant trials were started on a reconstructed portion of stream channel in summer 2005 and monitored annually. GCC expects the results of this study will define the field conditions and techniques for successful reclamation.
Since 2000, GCC has obtained mine licence and approval for operations at the No. 12 South B2 Pit, No. 8 Pit East Extension and No. 12 South B2 Underground Operation. Mining at the No. 12 South B2 Pit was completed in July 2010. GCC obtained approval for operations at No. 8 Pit East Extension in December 2009. Mining is currently underway at No. 8 North, Middle and South Pits of the East Extension. GCC received mine permit and licence and associated approvals for No. 12 South B2 Underground Operation in June 2011. An application for mine licence and approval was filed in March 2010 for the No. 12 South A Pit. This application is currently under regulatory review.
GCC's operations are regulated primarily under the Coal Conservation Act, the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) and the Water Act, and subject to federal statutes dealing with project review, impact assessment and protection of fisheries streams.
GCC operates under the terms and conditions of EPEA Approval No. 155804-00-04 for the No. 7 Underground Operation, the No. 8 Pit East Extension and the No. 12 South B2 Underground Operation. GCC provides a reclamation security to the Government of Alberta covering reclamation costs for all disturbance and operations areas, including decommissioning security for underground mine facilities and the coal processing plant. The reclamation security is updated annually to allow for expansions in mine development areas.
The EPEA Approval prescribes environmental standards for water and air emissions as well as monitoring and reporting programs for a wide range of quality parameters related to air, water and wildlife within and around GCC’s operations areas. GCC's Environmental Team is also responsible for:
Water & Air Quality Management:
- Site-wide Water Balance and Water Measurement
- Mine Wastewater Handling Facilities and Diversion Structures
- Domestic Water and Wastewater Systems
- Particulates and Dust Control Program
- Coal Dryer Volatile Organic Compounds and Particulate Emission Reduction Action Plan
- Instrumentation and Maintenance at Air Quality Monitoring Stations
Other Environmental Protection, Compliance and Management Programs:
- Selenium Monitoring and Management
- Waste Management
- Flood Creek Disposal Facility
- Groundwater and Seepage Monitoring
- Baseflow Monitoring - Caw Creek Watershed
- Fisheries and Benthic Invertebrate Monitoring
- Mount Hamell Mountain Goat Monitoring
- Woodland Caribou Monitoring
- Reclamation and Remediation