With pioneering technology and a dedicated approach to sustainability, Osisko Development is redefining mining for a better future
“At Osisko we strive to do things differently, to demonstrate that sustainable development is an intrinsic part of mining that generates lasting positive impacts for the local communities. We hope to lead by example and inspire others to follow us.” This declaration comes from François Vézina, P.Eng., MBA, Senior VP of Project Development, Technical Services and Environment for Osisko Development (TSX.V/NYSE:ODV), the developers of a groundbreaking approach to mining that is revisioning what is possible when it comes to sustainability, safety, and community engagement.
Their flagship asset, the Cariboo Gold Project in the small British Columbia town of Wells, is on the verge of completing permitting after being the first project in the province to go through a new rigorous provincial environmental assessment process. Cariboo will be a smart mine unlike any other in Canada and will employ about 500 people in Wells and from surrounding communities.
With opportunities for gainful employment slim in the town of 200 residents, Cariboo may be the economic regenerator for the community and the potential to operate beyond the initial 12-year expected mine life. Osisko is partnering with the area’s Indigenous Nations on the breakthrough project, which is built on their desire to be not just a good neighbor, but the best neighbor possible. And they’re proving it with their rock-solid commitment to environmental responsibility and social engagement.
“We're not just following regulations, we want to be the best when it comes to meeting the concerns of the community,” he said.
Noise poses a considerable concern for the quiet little town where the mine will be located. Osisko has engaged acoustics and vibrations experts Soft dB to take noise hazards out of the mining equation with their noise monitoring stations.
The favorable mineralogy of the Cariboo Gold Project enables them to use ore sorting technology. In comparison to traditional gold processing, which requires all the ore to be grinded and leach with chemical, the Cariboo mine will be able to mechanically remove 50% of barren rock with this technique, thus substantially reducing energy required for grinding and water and chemical for leaching of the gold. “On the economical side, ore sorting basically reduce of 50% the cost of the mill facility as we just need to process half of the tonnage we are extracting from the mine,” Vézina states.
Another significant environmental advantage of the ore sorting is the reduction of tails, rejected mud type material that remains after gold ore is extracted from rock. Called gold mining reject (GMR) or tails, the waste creates potentially harmful water pollution; in conventional mines the reject material is held in “tailings ponds” with large environmental footprints. That won’t be happening at the Wells site. From 4,900tpd, extracted from the underground mine, only 650tpd (13%) will be transported to the final processing site 100 kilometers away and stored in an old tailings pond. This strategy eliminates the need to have a tailings pond in Wells, where the community wanted to avoid impacting the pristine mountain landscape and environment.
Osisko’s ambition doesn’t stop there. Focused on reducing its carbon footprint, the team is completing a feasibility study to convert the mine to be fully electrified, all equipment and infrastructures, a mining industry first. “This is a brand new mine, and the next evolution for us. We know the technology is ready,” Vézina said. “It’s not just to showcase that we're reducing GHG, but it's also designing the automation appropriately.” Reducing dust, noise, and GHG is essential to keep workers and the community healthy, and by significantly shrinking their footprint and installing as much infrastructure underground as possible, Osisko is creating a roadmap for other mining companies to follow suit.
“When we say our mine is smart, it's not only from an environment standpoint, but also in terms of health and safety,” he stressed. The project is not using conventional drilling and blasting techniques; rather, continuous miner roadheaders will be used to carve out rock without using explosives causing vibrations, CO and CO2 gas emission or putting ammonia nitrate in the underground water that can damage the environment and put workers at risks. “The roadheader is a really great example. We’re the first mine in Canada to use this technology and we will operate it in autonomous mode.”
The project’s fully electric technology replaces antiquated equipment and is both fully automated and autonomous. Unlike in conventional mines, workers won’t be required to work at the face of the tunnel and be exposed to harm. “This substantially improves the safety of our workers and doesn’t expose them to hazards like dust, noise, and potential fall of ground,” Vézina explained.
Vézina is particularly proud of the organization’s relationship with the Lhtako Dené Nation (LDN), Xatsull and Williams Lake on whose land the Cariboo Project is situated. At present, Osisko is in advanced discussions with the LDN partners to create a joint venture with them to build and manage the power line necessary to meet the company’s goals of full electrification. “Even if our mine depletes and disappears in 20 or 25 years, the power line will still be there. That’s the type of lasting impact we want to have on host communities,” he noted.
Another part of the project that has a bold sustainability focus is the creation of a data center. Data centers consume tremendous amounts of electric power, to cool down the servers used. “Because we're mining underground, the water that we're pumping to the mine could be used to cool that data center and we could use the heat generated by the center to heat the mine in the winter,” he said. “We are looking into this right now because we have grant funding and support for the completion of a feasibility study for the complete electrification of our mine from the provincial and federal governments This would be a first worldwide, from what we know.”
The Osisko Development team has been working closely together for 12 years and literally shares a world of expertise from working in sites all over the world. “We know each other inside out. We’re a small but very close team,” Vézina pointed out. “We come with a lot of experience from previous engagements.” He credits Osisko Development’s Chair of the Board of Directors and CEO Sean Roosen’s leadership and entrepreneurial bent for the success of the endeavor. “Sean is leading the charge because he understands the vision and isn’t scared to try new things.”
On the exploration side, Chris Lodder, President of Osisko Development, recognized the project’s potential site and had the vision to promote it. “Maggie Layman, our talented VP of exploration, is responsible for the Cariboo program’s success when we started this project in 2016-17.”
“It feels good to be back home in Canada and developing good infrastructure and a community. It's a bit unusual as not a lot of people want to have that challenge so close to their community,” he pointed out, noting that small communities strongly prefer mining companies to operate as far removed from their population as possible. “But we have a great wealth of experience and get along really well with the people in the community. We’re very dedicated to building this mine.”
Osisko Development Corp. is a premier North American gold development company focused on high-quality past-producing properties located in mining friendly jurisdictions with district scale potential. The Company's objective is to become an intermediate gold producer by advancing its 100%-owned Cariboo Gold Project, located in central B.C., Canada, the recently acquired Tintic Project in the historic East Tintic mining district in Utah, U.S.A., and the San Antonio Gold Project in Sonora, Mexico. In addition to considerable brownfield exploration potential of these properties, that benefit from significant historical mining data, existing infrastructure and access to skilled labour, the Company's project pipeline is complemented by other prospective exploration properties. The Company's strategy is to develop attractive, long-life, socially and environmentally sustainable mining assets, while minimizing exposure to development risk and growing mineral resources.
1100, av des Canadiens-de-Montreal
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Phone Number: 514.940.0685
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Homepage Link: https://osiskodev.com