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)
Barbour S & McKenna G. 2010. Engineering for Wetland Reclamation, Reclamation and Restoration of Boreal Peatland and Forest Ecosystems: Toward a Sustainable Future. Edmonton. March 25-27. Paper 3-6.
Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA). 2005. Landscape Design Checklist, Revised RSDS Government Regulator Version. May 2005. CEMA-RWG Landscape Design Subgroup. 8p. (editor and co-author).
Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA). 2012. Oil Sands End Pit Lakes Guidance Document. Fort McMurray. 494p. (chapter author, technical advisor).
Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA). 2014. Guidelines for Wetland Establishment on Reclaimed Oil Sands Leases (3rd Edition). Fort McMurray. 436p. (chapter author, technical advisor).
Daly C, Atkinson J, Birkham T, Chapman D, Ciborowski J, McKenna G, O'Kane M, Price J, Rochefort L, & Russell B. 2010. Novel wetland reclamation design: The Suncor pilot fen and Wapisiw wetland. 37th Annual Aquatic Toxicity Workshop October 3-6. Toronto. Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Eaton BR, Fisher JT, McKenna GT, & Pollard J. 2014. An Ecological Framework for Wildlife Habitat Design for Oil Sands Mine Reclamation. OSRIN Report No. TR-67. Oil Sands Research and Information Network, University of Alberta. Edmonton. 83p.
Keys MJ, McKenna G, Sawatsky L, & Van Meer T. 1995. Natural analogs for sustainable reclamation landscape design at Syncrude. Environmental Management for Mining. Saskatoon
McKenna G. 2012. Sustainable mining and landform design. David C Sego Symposium. April 26-27. University of Alberta. Edmonton.
McKenna GT. 2009. Techniques for creating mining landforms with natural appearance. Tailings and Mine Waste 2009 Conference. Banff. University of Alberta Geotechnical Centre, Edmonton.
MEND. 2012. Cold Regions Cover System Design Technical Guidance Document. MEND Report 1.61.5c. Consultant's report prepared by O'Kane Consultants for Mine Environment Neutral Drainage Program. July 2012. 177p. (Technical panel member, contributor).
Pollard J, McKenna GT, Fair J, Daly C, Wytrykush C, & Clark J. 2012. Design aspects of two fen wetlands constructed for reclamation research in the Athabasca oil sands. Mine Closure 2012 Symposium. Brisbane. Australian Centre for Geomechanics. p815-829
Russell B, McKenna G, Leblanc M, Wells PS, & Anderson HB. 2010. Design and construction of the reclamation surface for the first oil sands tailings pond. Mine Closure 2010, Vina del Mar, Chile. Australia Centre for Geomechanics, Perth. 13p.
Strategic Advisory Panel on Selenium Management. 2010. The Way Forward: Strategic Plan for the Management of Selenium at Teck Coal Operations. Swanson Environmental Strategies Ltd. Calgary. 233p. (panel member, co-author).
Strategic Advisory Panel on Selenium Management. 2012. Alternative Futures: collective action to manage selenium in the Elk and McLeod Watersheds. Swanson Environmental Strategies Ltd. Calgary. 80p. (panel member, co-author).
Wytrykush C, Vitt DH, McKenna G, & Vassov R. 2012 Designing landscapes to support peatland development on soft tailings deposits: Syncrude Canada Ltd.'s Sandhill Fen Research Watershed initiative. Restoration and reclamation of boreal ecosystems: Attaining sustainable development. Cambridge University Press New York New York. p161-178.
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.
Abbott RM & McKenna GT. 2012. Sustainable mining now: Turning ideas and ideals into reality. Mine Closure 2012. Brisbane. Australian Centre for Geomechanics. p771-781.
Ansah-Sam M, Hachey L, McKenna G, & Mooder B. 2016. The DBM approach for setting engineering design criteria for an oil sands mine closure plan. Fifth International Oil Sands Tailings Conference, December 4-7. Lake Louise, Alberta. University of Alberta Geotechnical Group, Edmonton. 11p.
Cassie J & McKenna G. 2016. Mine closure planning, design and implementation: from hand-waving to reality. Planning for Closure 2016: First International Congress on Planning for Closure of Mining Operations. Santiago, Chile. November 20-22. Gecamin. Santiago. 9p.
Fair JM, Pollard J, & McKenna GT. 2014. Reclaimed closure landscapes: the importance and benefits of operations maintenance and monitoring. 38th BCTRCR Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium. Sep 22-25. Prince George, BC.
McGreevy J, McKenna G, An R, & Scordo E. 2013. Regional mine closure plans – the next improvement in closure planning. Tailings and Mine Waste 2013 Conference. Banff. Nov 3-6. University of Alberta Geotechnical Centre, Edmonton.
McKee WN & McKenna GT. 1997. Closure planning. actions today to control cost and liability tomorrow. CIM District 5 Mining Conference. Fort McMurray. Canadian Institute of Mining. Paper 22.
McKenna G, An R, Scordo E, & McGreevy J. 2013. Toward effective closure planning: From progressive reclamation to sustainable mining. Tailings and Mine Waste '13. Proceedings of the Seventeenth International Conference on Tailings and Mine Waste, November 3-6, Banff. University of Alberta Geotechnical Center, Edmonton. p615-625.
McKenna G, Keys M, Van Meer T. Roy L. & Sawatsky. 2000. The impact of beaver dams on the design and construction of reclaimed mines sites. Proceedings of the 24th Annual British Columbia Mine and Reclamation Symposium, Williams Lake, BC. 2000.
McKenna G, O'Kane M, & Qualizza C. 2011. Tools for bringing mine reclamation research to commercial implementation. Tailings and Mine Waste 2011 Conference. Vancouver. Nov 6-9. 11p.
McKenna G, Scordo E, Shuttleworth D, Straker J, Purdy B, & Buchko J. 2011. Aesthetics for mine closure. Mine Closure 2011 Conference. Lake Louise, Canada. Australian Centre for Geomechanics. Perth. 1:603-612.
McKenna G, Straker J, & O'Kane M. 2016. Custodial transfer of reclaimed mines: barriers and opportunities. TRCR 40th Annual BC Mine Reclamation Symposium. Penticton, BC, Canada. Sept 2016. 12p.
McKenna G. 1996. "Concepts in lease-closure landscapes." CIM Bulletin 89:89-95.
Rains RB & McKenna GT. 1995. Fluvial geomorphology of natural rivers and creeks and its impact on lease-closure designs at Syncrude Canada Ltd. 7th Annual Canadian Dam Safety Conference. Banff. Canadian Dam Safety Association (Canadian Dam Association). p279-293.
Swanson S, Abbott R, Funk W, Kirk L, McKenna G, Ohlendorf H, & Sandy T. 2011. Building stakeholder engagement in sustainable solutions — The strategic Advisory Panel on Selenium Management. Mine Closure 2011 Symposium. Lake Louise, Canada. Australian Centre for Geomechanics. 2:189-196.