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VAST hits a home run in EA big league

Over six years, 33 staff contributed nearly 11,000 hours to secure the Kootenay West Mine Environmental Assessment (EA) approval for local mining client

For the Townsman

VAST Resource Solutions Inc. (VAST), a natural resource management and engineering consulting firm based out of Cranbrook, B.C., has reached a significant milestone as a company.

Since 2012, VAST has been working as the lead consultant on the Kootenay West Mine Project, proposed by CertainTeed Gypsum Canada Inc. Last week, the Environmental Assessment Office approved the Environmental Assessment (EA) Application and issued a provincial Environmental Assessment Certificate forthenew gypsum mine that will be located about 12 km northeast of Canal Flats in the upper Kootenay River drainage.

This is a significant achievement for VAST as it represents the local company’s first foray into the EA process as the lead consultant – a big deal considering most EA’s are project-managed by much larger environmental/engineering consulting firms run out of major cities.

“It’s important for Kootenay industry and business to know that VAST can deliver the same, if not better, high-quality Environmental Assessments as other natural resource and engineering firms much larger in size,” said Leigh Anne Isaac, project lead and Sr. Wildlife Biologist with VAST. “We are a team of rigorous scientists and engineers with a depth of experience that ensures high-quality, scientifically sound project outcomes. We are personally invested in the integrity of these projects because we live and work right here in the East Kootenay region.

“VAST professionally and meticulously navigated a somewhat complex process from start to finish and has delivered it to exceptional standards, partly because of our commitment to always choosing the right approach over the easy one. Our ability to perform at the next level has been demonstrated.”

“The Ktunaxa Nation Council has had extensive experience participating in and reviewing Environmental Assessment Certificate applications for projects within our Territory,” said Nicole Kapell, Environment and Archaeological Stewardship Manager, Ktunaxa Nation Council. “Working with a local company on this EA was a good experience for us and we appreciated the hard work that VAST put in to this process and how they incorporated our comments and advice.”

“In its correspondence with us, the EA Working Group assigned to review the Kootenay West Mine application commended both VAST and CertainTeed for the cooperative and positive approach demonstrated throughout the process,” said Dave Struthers, partner and Senior Reclamation Specialist with VAST. “This speaks volumes to the professionalism of our staff, and no doubt was a factor in the early decision, which came only 14 days into a 45-day ministerial decision timeline. It is a great example of how the diversity of our expertise, and our local knowledge, adds value to the work we do for our clients.”

The next milestones toward final approval of the Kootenay West Mine Project will be the Mines Act and Environmental Management Act permits, as well as ensuring the 21 conditions that are part of the Kootenay West EA certificate are met.

The 135-hectare gypsum mine is situated on the traditional territories of the Ktunaxa Nation Council and Shuswap Indian Band, on the southeast-facing slope of Mt. Desmet. Kootenay West Mine is expected to produce 400,000 tonnes of gypsum per year over a 43-year mine life, and is intended to replace CertainTeed’s existing gypsum mine, Windermere Operations, east of Invermere.

“I found working with VAST invaluable due to their hard work, stakeholder relationships and results-oriented focus to our project,” said Steve Rasilainen, Director, Mining Operations N.A., CertainTeed Gypsum Canada. “They are a dedicated group of professionals committed to delivering a high-quality product with integrity.”

VAST provides a diverse array of natural resource management services to private and public-sector clients throughout Western Canada. Its staff have expertise in agriculture; aquatic and fish ecology; contaminated site assessment and remediation; environmental assessment; forestry; geomatics; geotechnical, hydraulic and resource engineering; mine planning and reclamation; riparian and terrestrial ecosystems; vegetation planning and monitoring; and wildlife ecology.