In their past lives as environmental co-ordinators for two different mines in the Timmins area, Linda Byron-Fortin and Colin Webster often ran into each other at industry conferences.
In 2004, they teamed up to form their own environmental consulting company, Blue Heron.
Since then, the company has grown steadily and now employs three full-time and several casual workers besides Byron-Fortin and Webster.
“From the day we started, we’ve done very well and we’re pleased with our growth. We’re going to be growing in the next few years as well,” said Byron-Fortin. “You can’t do badly in Timmins right now. It was good timing, although it wasn’t by design.”
Blue Heron’s clients include the Porcupine Joint Venture (now Goldcorp), Lakeshore Gold, Northgate Minerals, Liberty Mines, Xstrata Copper, Xstrata Nickel, CVRD Inco and FNX Mining.
The company is unique because both of the founders used to work at mines, unlike some environmental consultants, said Byron-Fortin.
“I haven’t always been interested in owning my own business, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve become more interested,” she said. “At a certain point, you get tired of the politics and living by someone else’s rules.”
Blue Heron provides a full list of environmental consulting services, including compliance and conformance auditing, environmental permitting strategies, mine closure planning, health, safety and environmental management systems, environmental protection systems, project management and training programs.
From Jan. 21-25, 2008, the company is offering an environmental management workshop for those who work in the mining industry. The course is being held at Cedar Meadows Resort in Timmins. Byron-Fortin is hoping for at least 10 participants.
“It’s Environmental Co-ordinator 101 class,” she said.
“It’s a big challenge to find experienced co-ordinators, and oftentimes they’re taking people straight out of school. They have me go in and sit with their new environmental co-ordinator and explain to them what their job is. This is that course.”
The first day of the workshop will feature a four-hour short course on environmental awareness for managers who have had little or no exposure to environmental legislation that affects the mining industry.
Permitting for the mineral sector, compliance and monitoring programs, environmental management systems and closure planning will be covered over the following four days.
The workshop costs $159 to attend the four-hour short course, $1,590 for four days of sessions, or $1,696 to attend the full five-day workshop.
Byron-Fortin’s own area of expertise is health, safety and environmental management systems.
“It’s understanding what your environmental risks are by doing a risk assessment of the site, and once you know what those risks are, finding out what your legal requirements are,” she said.
Procedures and programs
“Then what you do is develop programs around those risks and legal requirements. Say you decide that waste management is a significant environmental issue at your site. You write up procedures and programs around how you’re going deal with waste in a way that addresses legal requirements.
“Once you have a bunch of things written up, then you have to develop training programs and inspection programs to make sure people are doing things properly.”
It’s important for companies to have a system to follow environmental legislation so they don’t have government inspectors showing up and saying the mine’s practices are illegal.
“The regulations are becoming more and more complicated and convoluted, so you really need a good environmental management system,” she said.
“That way, the compliance doesn’t rest on the shoulders of the environmental co-ordinator. That’s the way health and safety has been done over the years. Health and safety is not the responsibility of the health and safety co-ordinator, it’s the responsibility of everyone.”
The mining industry has been doing extremely well with environmental stewardship in recent years, said Byron-Fortin.
“They’re very pro-active and they’re very interested in complying with all legislation. They’re interested in having minimal environmental impact. That’s a reflection of the public being more educated now and demanding that from mining companies.”