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New Institute calls for improved mine reclamation

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New Institute calls for improved mine reclamation






An independent non-profit institute dedicated to making sustainable and responsible mine reclamation a common practice within a decade was launched today in Vancouver, Canada.  


The Landform Design Institute (LDI), led by veteran geotechnical engineer Gord McKenna, intends to build and support an international community of landform design practitioners. 


The Institute hopes to provide industry and those interested in this emerging field with useful processes, tools, courses, and case histories. 


“Mining will always be essential to society, but it greatly disturbs the land. We need to reclaim these lands progressively, with confidence and pride. It’s a tall order,” said McKenna, who introduced the Institute last week to a receptive audience of reclamation specialists at the 42nd British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Kimberley, BC. 


Landform design is an emerging practice that draws together civil and mining engineering, ecology, geochemistry, and other fields to reclaim mine lands. It allows industry, regulators, and local communities to share their experiences and expertise. Training will be a chief component.  


“Reclamation is practiced at just about every mine. But reaching a satisfactory outcome requires a stronger emphasis on setting clear goals and then delivering on those goals using a more inclusive and multi-disciplinary approach to design and construction,” said McKenna.


The Institute is already attracting support. Andrea McEachern, president of the Canadian Land Reclamation Association (CLRA), was among the first to herald the LDI as “a great new way to bring attention to the need for more sustainable reclamation in the mining sector.”


At the University of Alberta, Distinguished Professor (Emeritus) of Civil Engineering, Norbert Morgenstern, welcomed the Institute’s creation. “Landscape design in support of mine closure is a highly interdisciplinary undertaking. As a result, its evolution has been challenging,” he said. 


“The formation of the Landform Design Institute promises to overcome these challenges and strengthen the role of landform design in sustainable closure of mine sites. The Institute merits our support and Gord McKenna deserves our appreciation for taking this initiative.” 


Done well, landform design can create resilient and socially acceptable landscapes. It can be, as McKenna put it, “a pillar of sustainable mining.”


McKenna holds a PhD in geotechnical engineering from the University of Alberta and brings to the Institute more than 30 years of professional mining experience. He is the principal of BC-based McKenna Geotechnical Inc., a consultancy he founded in 2017 after working at an operating mine, major engineering consulting firms, and universities. 


The Institute is seeking participants from around the world and will be exploring sponsorship opportunities in the coming months. A major milestone toward landform design will be a 40-hour landform design course at the University of Alberta December 5 to 10, 2019. 


Potential short-term projects for the Institute include a graduate-level landform-design university course, a textbook, and a series of workshops devoted to sharing the latest knowledge in landform design. 


The long-term goal is ensuring former mine lands receive regulatory sign-off, are accepted by local communities, and meet land use goals which often means they will serve as sustainable habitat for wildlife. Allowing people back on the reclaimed land as soon as possible is a key objective of responsible landform design.


Posted September 30, 2019

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