Investing in the energy transition means supporting the next generation of mining professionals, which is why we regularly host student tours of our underground operations at Kambalda.
The regular tours are aimed at year 12 students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects as well as students already at university; many from the West Australian School of Mines at Curtin University and our local communities.
The tours provide students who are committed to the mining sector or thinking about joining it with the opportunity to experience underground mining in real life and create a network of fellow students and graduates.
Participants get exposure to surveying, geotechnical work, engineering, geology, environmental sciences and safety practices at a real operating mine. As well as the real-life exposure students get on our tours, the connection with industry experts is invaluable. In 2022, one of the tours involved Kate Woodall, the granddaughter of Dr Roy Woodall after who the decline at our Cassini mine is named.
The responsible stewardship of our precious water resource is a key aspect of our approach to sustainability at Kambalda. While we use minimal water in our exploration, development and production activities as all nickel is processed offsite, we do recycle water where possible, ensure we have no reliance on water from artesian or stressed water sources, and do not discharge water into areas of environmental fragility.
Because of upgrades to existing water infrastructure at our Northern Operations and the introduction of recycled mining process water, we were able to reduce our total site water usage by 6.5 per cent in FY22 despite significantly increasing our operational activity.
We constantly monitor and evaluate our water infrastructure and management practices to ensure we minimise use of this valuable resource wherever possible.
Our Southern Operations Accommodation Village (SOAV) was built with sustainability at the heart of its design. Partnering with two local Western Australian businesses, Amanda Energy Solutions and Switch Batteries, SOAV was designed with a renewable power solution capable of generating between 80to 100 per cent of its daily power requirements.
The system includes roof-top solar panels and a battery with the ability to be monitored and administered remotely, designed to be scaled and refined over time as the needs of the village change.
Several other design elements have been incorporated into the village to improve energy efficiency and enhance amenity, including:
- 100 per cent recyclable, high thermal efficiency building panels.
- Energy efficient double glazing on all buildings.
- Inverter air conditioners.
- LED lighting throughout the entire village, eliminating “dark spots”.
- Deliberate selection of appliances based on energy rating.
- Energy efficient, 2.2metreverandas on all buildings.
- Smart design potable water system.
- Local, high-quality catering.
Not only does the village represented a step-change in our employee experience, but it has also eliminated the need for our people to travel a daily round trip of 120kilometres to our Northern Operations accommodation village, supporting greater overall wellbeing, health and safety.
Supporting our workforce to be diverse, inclusive and flexible is an important goal at our Kambalda operations. We are proud to have achieved a well above industry average of 33per cent female participation in our workforce and 39 percent female representation at a Board and Executive Management level in FY22. We have also worked to close the gender pay gap, implementing rigorous remuneration frameworks to assess and reward individuals in like-for-like positions based on merit, not gender.
The Covid-19 pandemic also highlighted more than ever our need to adopt flexible work practices across our organisation, including site-based roles where it was safe and possible to do so. The use of technology, particularly video-based software was crucial in keeping our workforce visually connected during the pandemic, as were the regular health and wellbeing checks on the team by management.These practices carry on today, enabling employees to perform their roles from home when they need and are able to.
While flexible work arrangements are not always achievable for our site-based employees, we have developed a state-of-the-art Southern Operations Accommodation Village to support employees to reduce their travel time to and from site, lessening employee fatigue both at work and when they return home to their families.
Esker Site is located in the area known as the James Bay and Hudson Bay Lowlands. This area is home to many wildlife species, including caribou.
There are two subspecies in the area near Esker during the winter — the boreal caribou (or woodland caribou), and the migratory caribou. Because the boreal caribou are considered a threatened species by the Ontario and Federal governments, we undertake special measures during exploration to avoid disturbing the animals or impacting their habitat.
Ring of Fire Metals has a rigorous plan in place (required by the Provincial Endangered Species Act) to protect caribou. One part of this plan is to create caribou awareness at Esker. Our team members go through a species at risk standard operating procedure (SOP), which is a step-by-step procedure explaining what to do if they encounter caribou while out in the field. In the SOP, it details what to do to minimize the disturbance of caribou, as well as minimizing habitat changes and fragmentation.
When workers come across caribou, they are not to feed or follow the caribou. Fieldwork is to be stopped to give the animals space and let them move through. Workers are to document any caribou observations and report them to their supervisor, which is then reported to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. This information helps the Ministry to be aware of where caribou are moving, which adds value to their studies about the species.
So, how does underground mining work? The first step in our plan is to go underground and remove granodiorite rock (not Eagle’s Nest ore). This rock, which is environmentally safe for use above ground, will be used in the construction of the site, airstrip, and regional infrastructure. By removing the granodiorite rock, we also create the space where we will put our tailings back underground.
What are tailings? Tailings are the materials that are left over after we separate the nickel, copper, and platinum group elements from the ore we mine at Eagle’s Nest. Tailings will be combined with cement binder and returned back underground into the spaces created from removing the ore and the granodiorite rock. The plan is for 100% of tailings to be stored underground, eliminating the need for a tailings pond above ground.
During the past decade, we have engaged with numerous industry experts and local communities to determine the most sustainable mine plan. Eagle’s Nest has sustainability and safety at the core of its design and we continue to research ways to further improve our plan as we work towards development.
In November 2022, Ring of Fire Metals Esker Site workers, guided by elders from the nearby First Nations, erected a Teepee at Esker.
By Scott Jacob, Manager, Community Relations
We were joined by Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation Chiefs, councillors and elders to celebrate the day. Having visitors is a great way to showcase the work that is done at Esker Site. Some members of our Toronto leadership team and parent company, Wyloo Metals, travelled to Esker to take part in this important ceremony.
RoF Metals hopes that the teepee will be a good way for our Indigenous staff members to be able to have ceremonies at Esker. Also, so that non-Indigenous people at Esker can learn more about our culture. This teepee demonstrates our relationship with the local First Nation communities. We raised the flags of Webequie and Marten Falls outside of the teepee to signify their leadership and the relationship that we share with these communities.
RoF Metals Manager, Community Engagement, Ryan Tuomi said “We hope that this teepee is just the beginning of bringing Indigenous culture and traditions into the development of the Eagle’s Nest Mine. Not just to support our workers but to build a diverse and inclusive working environment that everyone can be proud of.”
A special thank you to the community members who joined us to mark the occasion.