At McKenna Geotechnical, we appreciate the competing demands and unavoidable constraints facing landform design. Mine reclamation is about more than regrading and revegetating. Meeting corporate objectives and government regulations now requires an integrated design approach, ideally at the watershed scale, employing a multidisciplinary team, along with detailed schedules that span decades.
While most mine sites are destined to be used for recreation or conservation, others can be so difficult to restore that stability and a modest environmental impact are all that can be expected from reclamation. All are valid land uses, usually selected by the mine operator with input from stakeholders and regulators. We help navigate that process and guide the reclamation process to a successful conclusion.
In the late 1990s, Gord undertook research that laid the groundwork for much of what we now consider formal watershed design protocols. His approach has been embraced by Syncrude, Suncor, and Teck Coal, among other industry leaders. He is responsible for the investigation, design, construction, and reclamation of six commercial-scale watershed reclamation projects in Canada covering a total of 650 hectares. Another 2,000 ha are under construction, and closure at another four sites totaling 40,000 ha is under way using his designs.
McKenna Geotechnical embraces teamwork, which is essential to successful landform design. No one specialist can possibly embody all the expertise required. The range of knowledge required is vast, encompassing mine planning, geotechnical design, traditional knowledge, surface water, groundwater, soils, vegetation, and wildlife to name a few of the critical specialties. Founder Gord McKenna, over the past 30 years, has developed a working familiarity with a wealth of professionals who can satisfy all of these various requirements. Gord assembles the team and gets everyone working together toward the common goal.
- Syncrude Mildred Lake Settling Basin East Toe Berm 1999 (182 ha)
- Syncrude SWSS Cell 32 2000 (39 ha)
- Syncrude S5 Dump 2001 (74 ha)
- Syncrude MLSB Coke Watershed 2001 (11 ha)
- Syncrude South Bison Hills Dump 2002 (100 ha)
- Syncrude S4 Dump/Gateway Hill 2004 (107 ha)
- Syncrude W1/W2 Dumps 2004 (seven watersheds covering 244 ha)
- Suncor MD2 Dump 2009 (34 ha)
- Syncrude Composite Tailings Prototype 2009 (80 ha)
- Suncor Pond 1 / Wapisiw Lookout 2010 (225 ha)
- Suncor Pond 5 and Pond 6 2011 (1168 ha)
- Suncor Nikanotee Fen and Watershed 2012 (35 ha)
- Syncrude East InPit / Sandhill Fen 2012 (52 ha).
- Faro Waste Rock Dump 2016 (350 ha)
- Faro Rose Creek Tailings Watershed 2016 (212 ha)
- Shell MRM External Tailings Facility 2016 (1420 ha)
Closure PlanningMcKenna Geotechnical leads expert teams in developing mine closure plans at the landscape scale. Founder Gord McKenna has lead several breakthroughs in mine closure planning and relinquishment, including the use of formal goal-setting, design checklists, GIS tools, and assorted communication techniques. Some of Gord's breakthrough innovations have become routine in oil sands closure planning, including approaches related to project design topographical surfaces, constraint maps, regional closure planning (for multiple mines) and landscape design risk assessments. The firm's approach stresses the need to work with stakeholders, clearly define and obtain agreement on measurable goals, and work toward creating landforms that can be reclaimed reliably and efficiently. Stakeholder involvement, and consultation with First Nations, are increasingly critical elements to successful closure planning and implementation.
The long-term success of a mine depends on creating effective closure plans that are truly integrated with the long-range mine plan (ideally there is just one plan). The closure plans must be detailed enough to provide a solid basis for decision making by mine operations and mine development. They should provide a reliable basis for First Nations, regulatory agencies, and stakeholders to evaluate and provide guidance.
McKenna Geotechnical works with mines to ensure practical and realistic closure plans that are well communicated to all, and setting up the systems to help ensure they are followed and updated as needed. A well-done closure plan provides the 'boundary conditions" for the more detailed design of the 6 to 24 landforms at each mine site, streamlining this process and improving the ultimate landscape performance and acceptance of the resulting mine reclamation.