As with most major goals, it takes an infinite number of small steps to achieve them. The $5,000 Tom Peters Memorial Mine Reclamation Award, which is funded by Vale and was established in conjunction with the Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Land Reclamation Association (CLRA), the Ontario Mining Association and the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, represents one of those small, yet vitally important, steps.
The award, named after past Vale employee Tom Peters, was recently presented to Trent University PhD student Patrick Levasseur for his work in carbon and other nutrient dynamics in reclaimed coniferous (cone bearing) forests.
According to Quentin Smith, project engineer, Environment, and a board of director for CLRA’s Ontario chapter, Patrick is investigating what happens to carbon and other nutrients in the soil of previously damaged areas of forest after they have been revegetated. The revegetated areas, known as the barren rings, are based in Greater Sudbury and include Vale property.
“There is no single magic bullet,” said Quentin, “but findings from studies like Patrick’s on carbon sequestration, which is a hot topic, will help us reach our climate goals.” These goals are part of our New Pact with Society, an ongoing ESG journey that will see Vale reduce company-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent in 2030, and become carbon neutral by 2050.
Like the nature itself, everything is connected. And as it happens, Tom Peters worked in tailings management in the 1950s through to the 1980s. He had an interest in how tailings were being disposed of at the time, and wondered it they could be mixed with other ingredients to create conditions within the tailings themselves that would allow grasses and trees to thrive.
Tom, who had a background in agriculture, eventually created a process using standard agriculture products that turned the tailings into something that could, in fact, support the growth of grass and trees. As a living testament to his work, today, you can see healthy 60-year-old trees that stand 40 to 50 ft. tall thriving in the areas that Tom and his team revegetated.
“It was a milestone moment at the time to learn that tailings could be revegetated,” said Quentin.
Flash forward to today: Using Tom’s ground-breaking work as a springboard, Vale, in partnership with Terrapure Organics Solutions, mixed biosolids (human waste) with yard waste from the City of Greater Sudbury to regreen a tailings pond. The award-winning project has created more than 150 hectares of what was once a barren landscape into one alive with flora and fauna.
We’ve come a long way in soil management over a relatively short period of time. With companies like ours supporting further research and development in sustainable environmental practices like soil management, and funding awards like Tom Peters Memorial and others, our ESG goals will be achieved. One step at a time.4