The Mining Life Cycle
We work with our host communities through meaningful dialogue to achieve mutual benefits throughout the mining life cycle, providing communities with the basic knowledge they need to participate in each stage of the mining activity decision-making process. The five stages in the mining life cycle and the community engagement activities we undertake at each stage are outlined below:
Stage 1 – Mineral Exploration
Mineral exploration is the search for valuable mineral resources in the earth’s crust, and can require several years of exploration and research. Stage 1 activity does not dictate that a mine will be developed. In fact, very few grass roots projects eventually become a mine. During exploration, geologists review maps and reports, and use satellite imagery, sensors and computers to survey large areas of land. If the results are encouraging, trenching, exploratory drilling (obtaining rock samples from within bedrock), sampling and mineral assays are undertaken. If warranted, larger, more intensive drill programs are conducted. Early identification of communities, engagement and dialogue are performed to ensure that information is exchanged with all relevant CoIs.
Stage 2 – Deposit Evaluation
Stages 2 and 3 can span five to ten years incorporating a range of studies to determine mine feasibility, as well as engagement with governments, local communities, Indigenous groups and citizen groups. Deposit evaluations or pre-feasibility activities include social and environmental baseline studies, advanced geological and metallurgical studies through increased drilling, evaluating the preliminary design and engineering and assessing of the economic feasibility of the resource.
Deposit evaluations usually involve on-site geologists and drill rig operators. Typically a camp is set up with support staff and a community relations team. This stage presents opportunities for the exploration team to engage host communities in participatory processes related to project design by:
- providing information on the mining cycle;
- sharing possible mine development scenarios and timing;
- sharing information on social, environmental and development socio-economic needs and priorities; and
- Understanding local concerns.
Stage 3 – Mine Planning
The feasibility study phase involves more detailed design, engineering and economic evaluations and decisions as to whether the mine will be open pit or underground, the infrastructure required, location of related facilities, and thorough impact and mitigation assessments of any facility. Throughout the feasibility study and mine planning stage engagement with CoIs continues to ensure opportunities and concerns are identified and addressed early and considered and incorporated during mine planning.
We engage with, seek feedback from, and incorporate CoI input. This engagement process contributes to the understanding of the social and environmental impact assessments and is incorporated into operating, closure and reclamation plans. After analyzing these studies, a decision as to whether development should proceed is made in conjunction with local and government authorities.
Stage 4 – Mine Construction and Operation
Mine construction and operation can last from ten to 100 years. Construction employs the greatest number of people in the mining cycle, utilizing numerous trades associated with building infrastructure, for example: trades helpers (carpenters, electricians, pipe fitters), heavy equipment operators, housekeeping personnel, warehouse technicians, safety coordinators, environmental technicians, managers, engineers, geologists, scientists and accountants.
Mine operation involves extracting, processing, producing and transporting the mineral product. This stage employs professionals, management and skilled trade persons in four main work areas: excavation, processing plants, waste storage and support services. Aspects such as water quality and quantity, biodiversity, human rights, wildlife conservation, wastewater management, air quality, fisheries, etc. are also considered in order to minimize/mitigate social and environmental impacts. Typically, there are opportunities to implement long-term community investment programs focused upon locally-identified needs and resources, CoI participation and partnerships in program design, implementation and monitoring.
Operation of an Open Pit Mine
Below is a diagram which illustrates the typical operation of an open pit mine. This diagram is not specific to a Teck operation.
- Break the ore by drilling and blasting.
- Load the broken ore in a Truck with a Shovel.
- The Truck transports the ore to the Crusher, low grade ore to the Coarse Ore Stockpile and waste rock to the Waste Rock Dump.
- The ore is crushed in the Crusher and transported via a Conveyer to Ore Stockpiles.
- Conveyors bring material from the ore stockpiles to the Concentrator, also known as the Processing Plant or Mill.
- In the Concentrator the ore is ground to fine sand and chemically treated to produce the final product which is a mineral concentrate.
- Tailings, grinded rock which has no economically recoverable mineral content, is mixed with water and transported in a pipeline to a Tailings Impoundment, also known as the Tailings Management Facility.
- Mineral concentrate is transported to our customers.
Construction of the mine and the extraction, processing, production and transport of the mineral product.
Stage 5 – Mine Closure
Mine closure spans from two to ten years and post-closure water treatment and control may require monitoring and funding in perpetuity. The process of converting an operating mine to a closed operation involves three main phases:
- Decommissioning – dismantling of site infrastructure (e.g. facilities, buildings) and rehabilitation of any contaminated areas of the site (e.g. historical fuel spills).
- Final reclamation – completion of the restoration of disturbed areas (e.g. re-vegetating).
- Post-closure care and maintenance – monitoring the success of reclamation, long-term water capture and treatment.
Conversion of the operating mine to a closed site.