To kickstart the semester’s environmental sciences seminar series, Teck Highland Valley Copper environment supervisor Jamie Dickson discussed the mine’s plan to end land use while consulting with indigenous Nlaka’pamux communities for long-term applications.
“Mainly the focus of this [seminar] is the social side of the project and the importance of industry working collaboratively with the communities so that we can make these projects meaningful to the people that have been impacted by the operation,” she said.
Initially developed in 1998, the HVC End Land Use Plan was created for the operation that incorporated reclamation work done up till then and to guide future reclamation activities. The 2015 updated plan, now referred to as the Returning Land Use Plan, includes the perspectives of what Nlaka’pamux members would like the mine site to look like once it ceases operation in 2028.
“One of the more important drivers for the update was that when we developed this plan in 1998, it was essentially an internal process and there was no engagement with the Nlaka’pamux nation or any other community stakeholders,” she said. “That was why we wanted to update our End Land Use Plan.”
In the late 1980s when HVC initiated reclamation activities, the recommended plans were to integrate uses of grazing, non-commercial forestry and wildlife. According to Dickson, out of the 7000 hectares disturbed by the operation, more than 1800 hectares of inactive mining areas have been returned to agricultural pasture lands and natural ecosystems.
Most Nlaka’pamux community members are supportive of the return of natural ecosystems after the mine closes to uphold traditional land uses such as hunting, gathering and grazing. Survey responses were used to determine what proportion of the landscape should be reclaimed to agricultural uses and what should be for traditional purposes. About two-thirds of the land will be dedicated for native ecosystems and a third for farming grasslands.
“Another thing that was really important was to ensure that we were able to get meaningful feedback that would drive our plan,” Dickson said. “The key to this was early and ongoing engagement on the project, so we wanted to get the communities involved from the get-go, as opposed to some of the projects and plans that we had done in the past.”
After the mining closure, monitoring of plants, water quality, wildlife and the Highland tailings dam will remain HVC’s responsibility. The Nlaka’pamux community and HVC have committed to updating the land use plan every five years.