Vale’s community report looks to another 60 years of mining – by Kacper Antoszewski (Thompson Citizen – November 8, 2016)

Corporate affairs and organizational development manager Ryan Land was the guest speaker at a special meeting of the Thompson Chamber of Commerce Nov. 9, organized due to his cancellation the previous week. Land updated the chamber on Vale’s recently released annual community report including the results of this year’s Mining Association of Canada (MAC) audit and some of the past year’s accomplishments.

The community report presentation largely revolved around the results of Manitoba Operation’s Sustainable Mining Initiative audit, conducted by the MAC, which assesses member firms based on performance in tailings management, aboriginal and community outreach, energy use and emissions, safety and health, and crisis management.

The report places Manitoba Operations as AAA operators in the areas of aboriginal awareness, safety and health, and crisis management. More average is tailings management, floating in a grey area between A and AA ratings, along with A and B ratings in the areas of energy and emissions.

Land does acknowledge Vale’s poor showing in the area of biodiversity conservation, where it was assigned scores of B and C (the latter being the lowest acknowledged rating). However, he insisted that this did not necessarily implicate Vale’s actual performance in conservation: “It means that we don’t have the systems to report on what they’re measuring yet.” Diversity protocols in line with the MAC, he notes, have only been implemented in the last few years, and have yet to be fine-tuned.

Otherwise, Land notes that Vale continues to fall well within compliance with regards to environmental standards, and plans to continue to exceed standards from an engineering perspective, with their award-winning contribution to the TEDWG process and an improved rating in tailings management for 2016. Land asserted that Vale would continue to ensure it exceeded regulatory standards, even as standards are continuously re-evaluated.

The environmental hotline received 21 calls on the environmental hotline, with 17 related to sulphur dioxide emissions, and four related to noise.

Vale’s northern hiring strategy has often been a point of pride for Vale’s leadership, but Land acknowledged the reality that many of the process operators that have been trained over the last five years will now be re-entering the workforce in 2018. However, he noted that while some skill sets may need to be upgraded, these workers would bring with them the training and characteristics that make them effective industrial employees, a fact that Thompson and Northern Manitoba as a whole can market to potential investors.

“For the first time in Northern Manitoba that I know of,” said Land, “we’re oversupplied with a highly skilled, highly trained, world-class workforce.”

Land also echoed Vale Manitoba Operations vice-president Mark Scott’s previous comments at the Chamber of Commerce dinner in October, when he described new developments like the concentrate load-out facility and Dam B tailings expansion, representing an investment of over $100 million into the future of Thompson’s mining and milling operations.

This, Land says, is an indication of the faith Vale has in the potential for further development in the north. “We drew the support of Vale’s executive board for investments at a remarkably challenging point in the market: where other investments have been deferred and delayed, or declined, this is one they’ve made.”

Of course, within the big picture there were smaller achievements throughout the year: as of February 2016, Land noted that Vale had completed a full year without lost-time injuries, and thanked employees for the commitment and co-operation required to see it through. He also acknowledged Manitoba Operations’ second consecutive provincial championship in mine rescue, and their competition at the international mine rescue championships, what Land described as “the Olympics of mine rescue.”

Special thanks also went out to Tara Ritchie for her “heroic efforts” in organizing Manitoba Operations’ 60th anniversary celebration.

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