To optimise mining efforts on the highest-grade reserves, advanced modelling software converts raw exploration data, such as gold assays from core samples, into 3D models of the subsurface ore. “The extent of the deposit has grown through the use of modern scientific exploration tools, and we continue to define the limits of the mineralisation using the best science available,” stated Joe Bardswich, Northern Vertex project manager. “We strive to do this as a socially responsible corporate citizen, with occupational and environmental safety as a guiding principle.”
Safety and Sustainability
The 3D model also delineates hidden hazards such as historic underground workings. Using old mining maps and topographic laser scans results in better above- and below-ground condition analysis for site safety. Safety is so important in mining that the industry is regulated by its own government agency, the Mining Safety and Health Administration—a sister agency to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Ken Meyer, CDM Smith principal health and safety manager and Mining Safety and Health Administration-certified trainer, developed the mine’s health and safety plans. “An effective health and safety culture is paramount for mining clients. Unless you have worked on a mine, you might not recognise the potential for hazards, like heavy-duty crushing equipment, large trucks and undetonated explosives.”
To improve public safety around the mine, adits—openings in the ground—and other mining hazards were closed. “These are fragile environments, so we had to ensure that what we’re leaving behind is stable and safe. We wanted to orient operations and develop land use toward productive post-mining, such as natural habitats and off-road recreation,” said Vince. “Often, mine hazard closures are funded by taxpayers. Northern Vertex and CDM Smith worked with state mine inspectors to safely close and reclaim the abandoned mines and historic workings at no taxpayer cost.”
Beyond local economic benefits, the mine’s success may serve as a model for other sites. Vince also believes that today’s approach to mining has longer-term benefits. “The return to these historic properties, which were developed prior to environmental awareness, allows today’s mining companies to address past impacts with solutions that preserve the industry and environment.” For Bardswich, the ultimate measures of success are fundamental, “Zero accidents, minimal disturbance, proper reclamation and profitable operations. Very few exploration projects progress to production; the success of this project gives us a good chance at being a profitable mining operation."