"The mining industry has done well by integrating and involving communities in the discussions, and educating the general public on the importance of mining for our future."
Could you provide an overview of Stantec’s activity in the US and in Arizona specifically?
PS: Stantec has over 400 individuals dedicated to mining, minerals and metals in the US, and our resources are strategically deployed near our clients in Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City and Elko, along with several smaller regional offices. We add value by offering services across the entire life cycle of a mine: We start as early as resource assessment and work through putting the mine into operation, including mine planning and design, engineering and design of surface and underground infrastructure, water and tailings management, project delivery and execution, and ultimately through closure, reclamation, and post-closure asset transformation. Stantec is currently assisting a client with their pre-feasibility study (PFS) to expand their open pit and explore options to go underground. On another project, we began supporting our client with a basic engineering program almost three and half years ago for an in-situ copper mine and our involvement has continued into detailed engineering and will soon progress through full engineer-procure-construction-management (EPCM) execution. Finally, we are assisting a major copper producer from small engineering studies to a life-of-mine FS to full EPCM execution. We are also actively involved with tailings and waste management at two properties here in Arizona.
What role does Stantec play in supporting mine closure projects?
JR: In Arizona, we aim to consider the closure phase dynamically throughout the project phases to avoid it being a black box at the end of a project that requires major follow-on efforts. This supports clients in adapting their operational context to support closure.
PS: We integrate sustainable mining into all our services. The earlier we get involved in a project, the better we can provide clients with a sustainable closure and reclamation plan that will be accepted by the surrounding community and regulators. One of the interesting and quite frankly refreshing things about Arizona and Nevada is that generally, local communities overwhelmingly support mining. The mining industry has done well by integrating and involving communities in the discussions and planning, and educating the general public on the importance of mining for our future.
How are water shortages affecting the mining industry in Arizona?
PS: The industry is very focused on innovative solutions to address water shortages. With the technological advances in the extraction process, the industry is distributing and using water effectively and in a much more sustainable manner. These solutions reflect the community-driven way in which we approach our projects. For example, we partnered with an Arizona mine and a local firm based in Scottsdale that produces a self-contained water purification device that is solar powered and extracts, purifies and provides safe, clean and reliable water from the atmosphere for communities that presently do not have access to safe drinking water.
What role do the Global Industry Standards on Tailings Management play in the evolution of tailings management?
JR: For a long time, tailings have been considered the waste bin of a mine with limited investment and stewardship. The GISTM provides an important framework to appropriately design, operate and ultimately close tailings storage facilities in a community focused approach. Consequently, the standard has further widened the talent gap when it comes to tailings engineers – the industry simply has too few trained people to meet its ambitious needs and narrowing that gap with trained and experienced tailings engineers is critical for GISTM implementation.
Can you elaborate on the challenges and opportunities for copper mining in Arizona?
PS: Beyond challenges like water shortages and very lengthy federal permitting processes, the mining future is bright for Arizona and, we are certainly very proud to be an integral part of this future. The copper market is in a strong position, as the demand for copper is high and there will likely be a copper deficit at some point into the future. Arizona is ideally placed as the largest copper producer in the US: Resolution Copper on its own could produce up to 25% of the demand for copper in the US, and some additional properties are yet to come out of the PFS or feasibility stages and go into execution.