Risk Assessment

1. Identification of risks

            The security surrounding the Galore mine is primordial for the proponent. They conducted a risk evaluation for all potential technical, environmental, safety, and regulatory issues. Other hazards include industrial accidents, metallurgical problems, slides, spills, flooding, metal losses, and interruption due to weather conditions. All these risks may results in damage, destruction, injury, environmental damage, monetary losses or delays. On the environment, the more likely effects are the degradation of the water quality, sediment quality, and wetlands; effects on the vegetation and wildlife; contamination of the food webs. For each component, they determine the probability of the risk to occur, its magnitude and likelihood, the technical performance, the potential health and safety hazards, the environmental hazards, and the severity of the consequences in case of a failure or damage. The range varies from the most probable, such as for a water treatment failure, to the least-likely such as avalanches.

            More precisely, their main efforts were for the identification of the consequences after a catastrophic failure of the dam. It can be affected by avalanches, floods, and rockfall hazards but the dam was constructed in a conservative manner. The failure would result in severe unmitigable impacts on the river ecosystem including on the salmon which is a source of food and revenues for the local communities. Therefore the assessment of the possible impacts for such a failure were determined with the First Nations (TEK) as well as different government agencies (see also Infrastructure Section). 

            Each of their actions were under government regulations such as the environmental protection, the management of toxic substances, the exploration of the mine, the price controls, the occupational health and safety, and the cultural preservation. The best example would probably the respect of the Mine Act. For each equipment, there will be an operations and maintenance manual that would be followed by the workers. Finally, specific plans will be addressed for the air emissions, the water management, the waste rocks, the pipelines, the filter plant, the acid rock drainage, the spill emergency response, the wildlife and fish management, and the archaeological site protection.

            The emergency response plan is very important for a mining operation. It identifies the persons in the response plan. It addresses the site by site risk profile which includes the description of the hazardous substances and their toxicity. It identifies also the risk periods, the communication protocols and the initial response activities. Finally, in the emergency plan the mitigation measures and the clean up plans are described as well as the environmental restoration.  

            Risks about the climate change are difficult to evaluate for the project. Glacial retreat and increase in precipitations may but the most important environmental considerations to take into account about the climate change. The proponent had however undertaken a Flood risk assessment in case of massive flow events and continuously measuring water levels. 

            According to the proponent, all the measures during the risk assessment are taken during the operation of the mine but also at post-closure. Thus, the key words, for the risk assessment, are to have strong regulated, be prepared for any risks and keep monitoring.

2. Types of risks

            The types of risks can be split in two parts; accidents, malfunctions, and spills and environmental events. Accidents, but especially fuel spills are the most probable event to occur at the mine. That can be from the trucks, the diesel pipeline or from the diesel storage. If it occurs, the spill may contaminate the surrounding water, the sediment and the wetlands. As a result, the aquatic and wildlife habitat can be impaired. More indirectly, the whole food webs can be contaminated including fish, mammals, and berries. Since it is the most probable event to occur at the Galore Mine, mitigation measures were addressed. A management plan for accident and malfunction of equipment was set up at the beginning of the construction phase because risks are possible during the construction phase, the operation phase and at the post-closure. Plans were also conceived for a spill response and for the clean up. In addition, the strategic location of the facilities will limit the contamination of waterbodies in case of spill. They are located far from the nearest river.  Every single possibility of spills or accidents were mentioned and described in the EIA. It was properly done. 

            The environmental events can be separated into sub categories; storms, catastrophic events and earthquakes. The types of storms include mainly forest fires, floods, droughts, lightning, snowstorms, and extreme wind conditions. Extreme temperatures did not seem to pose a problem for the site. Forest fires are not unusual at this location due to the abundance of forest and warmer temperatures in summer but a safety plan will be addressed for the procedures and protocols to effectively deal with this hazard. Vegetation will be removed from the surrounding sites to prevent close fires. An indirect impact from forest fires would be an increase in run off from hills. But for the security of the workers, everyone will be evacuated during forest fires and only their essential equipments will be operated. In addition, air quality will be deteriorated from the burning of the woods. Droughts would also be important to consider because a certain level of water has to submerge the potential acid generating rocks. So, in case of droughts, even though the levels of rivers decrease, water from these rivers has to be pumped into the tailings dam. This action will certainly affect the aquatic fauna downstream of the mine, especially the fish but the submersion of acid producing rocks is more important for the long term. However, the main concern at the mine is about flooding. If excessive rain or snow melting occurs, the water can flow over the dam and this excessive pressure may break the dam. Therefore, they built five emergency overflow structures for the dam but it does not correspond to the demand, it would be detrimental for the whole ecosystem located downstream of the dam including humans but indirectly. Their fisheries would be contaminated from the acid rock drainage. During excessive precipitations, the open pit itself can be flooded which may become a risk for the workers. Since the dam integrity is one of the main concerns at the Galore Creek Valley, extraordinary precautions have been taken. A safety plan and a flood risk assessment have been developed; diversion channels from the dam have been built, and based on the Canadian Dam Association Safety Guidelines, the dam is strong to resist o the Probable Maximum Flood with a minimum of 100 years flood event which means the chance are 0.18 over the 20 years of the mine operation. A water management plan will also be set up (see the Hydrological Impacts Section). In addition, there will be daily weather forecasting at the site. As an extreme resort, the mine can also be shut down. 

            The catastrophic events include land slides, geohazards, and avalanches. The main impacts are pipeline rupture, blockage of the access road, and dam failure. So, to mitigate these impacts, the proponent set the facilities, the road and the towers of transmission line at some strategic locations where geohazards is not likely to occur. For the pipelines, the will be buried underground. Additionally, emergency plan will be available at the beginning of the operation and the workers will be informed about this emergency plan. For the avalanches, they will use explosives to manage unpredicted avalanches. 

            Earthquakes are also considered a possible impact at the Galore Creek Valley. The zone is qualified as moderately high seismic zone; there is a history of volcanism surrounding the Galore Creek Valley, which is situated within the northern Cordilleran volcanic province, one of the largest Neogene volcanic provinces in western North America. For example, in 1958, they had a seismic event of 7.9. The main impact that an earthquake can have is on the integrity of the infrastructure, especially for the tailings dam; it may cause its failure. Although seismic activity can not be mitigated, some preventive measures can be taken. For example, the dam was built with withstand of 1 in 10 000 year earthquake, it respects the maximum credible earthquake standards and it followed the Canadian Dam association Safety Guidelines for seismic risks. However, if the tailings dam has to fail, the loss would be enormous in terms of socio-economic impacts and environmental impacts (see Acid Rock Drainage Section). Air quality may also worsen during a volcanic eruption because it may emit volatile particles.  


            My critiques for this part concerns the monitoring for the post-closure. No workers will live at the site so I was wondering what would be the frequency of the monitoring, especially for the dam. In a word, every infrastructure component- the accommodation facilities, the filter plant, the heliport, the aerodrome, the access road, the pipelines, and the power transmission line- were designed to limit the damage from the weather and all safety measures were taken. These events are inevitable but their probabilities are relatively low. For the earthquakes, there was no mention in the report of they will forecasting the event at the site itself or it will be done by an office of Environmental Canada. For many of the environmental impacts, air quality may be injured but it was not addressed in the EIA report. Therefore, the key word would be prevention by monitoring plans. Finally, in case of delays, due to extreme conditions that would require the shut down of the mine, the proponent did not evaluate the cost.

3. Health risks

            Human health risks were poorly detailed in the report because no direct impact, except for accident, can occur or injure the workers.  However, those that were mentioned are the physical injury for environmental accidents, malfunction of equipments, unrelated illness (for example, the influenza) or intoxication after eating fish or country foods such as berries. There is no real mitigation measure to prevent accidents to occur but the proponent has committed to use the best practices and have written report in case of accident.  There is no mention however, if there is an on site clinician or nurse and we do not know where the nearest clinic is located.

Last updated: April 16th, 2008


NRSC 437 Lecture notes