"Critical minerals present challenges and opportunities, a duality we are well poised to address, and our clients are keen on transitioning into critical minerals extraction and reprocessing historical impoundments."
Could you introduce us to Arcadis and its services in the US mining industry?
Arcadis is a global firm with around 40,000 personnel, and in the US it has a force of 8,000 professionals and approximately 800 experts who contribute to serving the mining sector. In the US we focus on closure activities and water treatment, and our competencies encompass design and engineering for closure and water treatment and extend to full-scale construction.
How has the GISTM shaped the mining industry within the USA?
The new international global standards for tailings management have had a ripple effect worldwide, and Arcadis’ attention revolves around managing moderate to low hazard improvements. We help our clients navigate the intricacies of GISTM compliance, and we also guide them in comprehending safety prerequisites and audit obligations concerning their tailings impoundments. Moreover, we offer the engineer of record (EoR) for several impoundments across the US.
Our clients are adapting to comply with the 77 substandards of the GISTM. Many of those substandards relate to geotechnical engineering, but some also relate to surveys for biodiversity or hydrogeological conceptual site models.
What challenges do clients face regarding tailings management?
The demands posed by EoR requirements from our clients can be challenging. Clients seek immediate project delivery and consider factors like bench depth and long-term stability. Under GISTM’s engineer record mandates, sustained commitment becomes paramount, and clients are interested in knowing if assistance will persist not just for the next few years but throughout the asset’s lifespan. Our approach addresses historical impoundments that may lack design documentation, particularly those dating back 50 to 100 years. In such cases, we help them with the forensics of engineer designs, impoundment stability, and overall safety. Most of the time, companies need an entire team to understand these old impoundments, how they are constructed, and whether they are safe. Arcadis works with multidisciplinary teams of engineering scientists and hydrogeologists to achieve this.
What work is Arcadis doing in the critical minerals sector?
Critical minerals present challenges and opportunities, a duality we are well poised to address. Our clients are interested in pivoting into critical minerals extraction and reprocessing historic impoundments. We currently have clients seeking to permit the reopening of closed mines and the reprocessing of formally closed waste to try to extract critical minerals or increase production. We are noticing that mines we thought would be closed 10 years ago have stayed open, and the clients have explored more. They are investing in the West because they found that allocating their resources globally has not necessarily produced a return on investment. Not only are we helping clients understand what type of critical minerals they have on their waste rock or tailings, but we help them understand the geochemistry of what is there, how to reprocess it, and the chemical engineering needed to transform that waste and do it efficiently.
Could you highlight recent case studies Arcadis worked on?
In Idaho, a client awarded us a cluster of over 10 mines through a competitive bid. Our role entailed comprehensive portfolio management, responding to shifting regulatory dynamics, including federal and state mandates. We saved our client US$100 million by demonstrating that human health and ecological receptors remained unthreatened.
In Arizona, we stepped in at an advanced 90% design stage for a reclamation. Our involvement encompassed finalizing the design and conducting a thorough peer review that led to enhancements, and overseeing the subsequent construction phase, which concluded in the summer of 2023. What is interesting about this project was the biodiversity aspect, where we collaborated closely with the client to integrate trails into the reclaimed zone, introduce pollinator gardens to foster biodiversity, and develop enriched planting zones containing culturally significant flora for the local First Nations.
What factors will drive Arcadis’ growth in the upcoming months?
We will focus on critical minerals. Jeff Gilo, a distinguished Ph.D. geochemist, brought a plan and a team to expand critical mineral recovery and work on the engineering and construction on the back end of the new facilities related to these types of projects.
Among these, lithium holds the most significance, particularly in Nevada, where we have onboarded new clients engaged in mine development and permitting.
In parallel, we are collaborating with major automotive players venturing into battery manufacturing facilities. Though distinct from mining, we facilitate the establishment of these facilities.