British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Mine closure planning with first nations communities : the Stk'emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation and the… Collins, Benjamin C.; Van Zyl, D. (Dirk) 2016

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50    MINE CLOSURE PLANNING WITH FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITIES: THE STK’EMLUPSEMC TE SECWEPEMC NATION AND THE NEW AFTON MINE   Benjamin Collins, MASc.1 Dr. Dirk van Zyl., Professor2  1Senior Consultant,  KPMG Deal Advisory Infrastructure, Vancouver, Canada.  2Professor of Mining Engineering,  University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.   ABSTRACT At the base level of closure planning, community, stakeholders, & rights holder consultation is imperative to align closure goals for the long-term well-being of the land.  In British Columbia and Canada, First Nations and Indigenous communities are at the forefront of the impacts of mining, and require meaningful consideration and collaboration for closure.  The goal of this research is to understand how First Nations traditional knowledge can be used to improve reclamation and closure planning. Through an analysis of the traditional knowledge from the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation in regards to the New Afton Mine area, this research provides insight into consultation with First Nation communities for closure and reclamation planning.    The application of traditional knowledge for closure planning is a relatively new field.  As such, the application of the findings of this research are at a conceptual level and focus on the process of using traditional knowledge for closure. Interviews with knowledge keepers were conducted to understand the relationship between plant life, wildlife, water sources and the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc traditional use pattern in the area. Reclaiming the land to a natural state was outlined as the most desirable outcome for closure. In the end, the technical constraints of the property were found to be not well understood (subsidence zones, semi-arid conditions, open pit mining, etc.) and how they impact the desired closure and reclamation outcomes. This paper is part of the masters’ thesis of the same name under the supervision of Dr. Dirk van Zyl at the University of British Columbia’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering.   KEY WORDS Mine closure, first nations, land use planning, traditional knowledge, consultation.   INTRODUCTION  As the final steps in the life cycle of a mining operation, mine closure and reclamation align the property for its future post-mining use and long-term benefit to society (Berg, 2008; Bingham, 2011). Mining operations that have unsuccessfully prepared for closure and post-mining uncertainty can greatly impact 51  the local and regional communities economically, socially, environmentally (Australian Government - Department of Industry Tourism and Resources, 2006; Otto, 2010; Peck & Sinding, 2009). The closure activities that are conducted are decided based off the company’s corporate culture, project economics, stakeholder requirements, but most pressingly from regulatory requirements.  The requirements for reclamation and closure are outlined by the regional or national government and generally through mine permit(s) and during environmental assessments. The requirements for closure vary considerably from country to country, with less developed countries generally having less stringent regulations (Otto, 2010). Requirements or comments in regards to incorporating Indigenous, Aboriginal, and First Nations Traditional Knowledge into closure planning can be seen in environmental regulations for countries such as Australia & Canada (BC Ministry of Energy and Mines, 2008; Government of Western Australia, 2015). In British Columbia specifically, through recent permits such as the New Afton Mine, it is required to take into account the expectations of Indigenous or First Nations communities as much as possible during closure (Boadi, 2012; “Permit M-229 New Afton,” 2007).    Uncertainty can be considerable and significant for closure planning.  To plan for closure, a conceptual view of how the mine site will appear at the end of mining is needed (Bowman & Baker, 1998; Brodie, 2013). This identity can be very difficult to envision over the potentially 30 or more years of operation, as plans can change and mines can unexpectedly close from unforeseen changes to the geological conditions, environment, regulatory requirements, and community issues  (Laurence, 2006). This can be seen in the fact that contingency can be the single biggest line item in the closure cost estimate (Brodie, 2013). Even with this uncertainty, closure planning should still result in remediation of the land for safe, future generational use, as agreed upon through consultation and collaboration with the mine site’s stakeholders and rights holders (Warhurst & Noronha, 2000).  Successful mine closure planning requires input and open lines of communication from all stakeholders and rights holders (McHaina, 2001; S. A. Roberts, 2005; Roldan & Purvance, 2011). Common stakeholders are government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), mining companies, associated industry and businesses, unions, environmental organizations and the local communities (S. A. Roberts, 2005; Warhurst & Noronha, 2000; Xavier, 2013). A common misconception is considering First Nations communities as stakeholders (Joseph, 2014). First Nations communities are rights holders, sovereign nations with rights to the land (Brooks, 2013). In British Columbia, with the recent court cases of Delgamuukw (1997) and Tsilhqot'in (2015), the requirements and landscape for working with rights holding First Nations communities is changing. With the majority of BC being non-treaty land5, more court cases will commence, further progressing what is required for non-treaty land rights of First Nations communities and increasing the requirements for incorporating their wants and needs for any land use development decisions such as mine closure.   Mine closure planning is a site specific task that requires much more than just technical input from environmental assessments and studies, but also social and cultural values directly from local First Nations communities to align closure objectives to a more sustainable outcome (Boadi, 2012; Veiga, Scoble, & McAllister, 2001). Mine closure planning attempts to answer the questions of long term use                                                  5 Treaty 8 in North Eastern British Columbia is the only area in BC that a treaty has been signed   52  and site risk, which are often of key concerns to the mine’s stakeholders and rights holders (Laurence, 2006; Peck & Sinding, 2009). Each mine, each community, each jurisdiction has its own specific requirements, and all must be uniquely and carefully considered (Errington, 2001; Government of Western Australia, 2015; S. A. Roberts, 2005).  Even though mine closure and reclamation occur at the end of the mining life-cycle, planning and preparing occur for the site’s final land use occurs at all stages of the mine-life cycle (ICMM, 2011).  For the operating New Afton Mine, the views, values, traditional knowledge of the rights holding First Nations communities need to be understood as early on as possible and incorporated into the mine closure plans and operations (Brooks, 2013; Peck et al., 2005).    BACKGROUND: STK’EMLUPSEMC TE SECWEPEMC NATION AND THE NEW AFTON MINE   The New Afton Mine (owned and operated by New Gold Inc.) is located ten km west of Kamloops and about 350 km north-east from Vancouver, B.C., in the traditional territory of the Secwepemc Nation.  The area is the home of the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc and Skeetchestn Indian Bands.  The two bands hold historically close ties through shared lands and cultural heritage (Coffey, Goldstrom, Gottfriedson, Mathew, & Walton, 1990; “Slexlexeytwecw: Sharing our Stories: Informational Mining Conference,” 2012). In addition, they are two of the 17 Indigenous communities in the Secwepemc Nation (Ignace, 2008).  The two bands created a joint enterprise and partnership, called the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation (SSN) or Stk’emlupsemc Enterprises Inc. (SEI), for negotiations with the mining companies of the region.  The New Afton Mine site has a long history of mining operation. In 1978, Teck began production of the Afton Pit. Teck mined the gold and copper resource for 13 years and closed down in 1991.  Between 1999 and 2003, DRC Resources Corporation conducted exploration.  New Gold Inc. completed the feasibility study for the underground block cave mine in 2007, and began production in 2012 (Schmitt, Ames, & Stoopnikoff, 2008). The New Afton Mine has a 12 year life span, which is fairly short compared to other block cave mines around the world (Woo, Eberhardt, Elmo, & Stead, 2013).    Purpose of this Research The purpose of this research study is to analyze how First Nations traditional knowledge and consultation can be used to improve mine closure, reclamation, and land use planning. Furthermore, this research provides insight into how to consult and work with First Nations communities in regards to mine closure planning.  Through the use of a case study, the New Afton Mine and the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation (SSN), this research includes a practical example of how to implement and understand First Nation community’s objectives, perspectives, and traditional knowledge for closure and reclamation planning.    Research Question and Objectives The overarching research question explored in this research study is: How can First Nations traditional knowledge and consultation be utilized to improve closure, reclamation, and land use planning?  To help answer the above research question, the following are this research’s objectives: 53  1. Determine the objectives for mine closure, reclamation and long-term land use planning of the New Afton Mine, for the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation. 2. Find the important flora, fauna and traditional use patterns of the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation on and near the New Afton Mine site. 3. Explore the general thoughts about mining and mine closure planning for the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation. 4. Understand the proper engagement procedures with First Nations communities for mine closure and sustainable land management of mining sites.  LITERATURE REVIEW  This section provides a review of the literature related to the relations between mine closure, reclamation, and land use planning, the incorporation of sustainable development praxis, and Indigenous, Aboriginal, and First Nations community traditional knowledge.  This review will provide background into the complex nature of closure planning and the value of engaging with Indigenous, Aboriginal, and First Nations communities for improving mine closure and reclamation decision-making. This section reviews some of the current guides for the mining industry in sustainable development and Aboriginal consultation to understand current industry practices. Finally, the limitations of the literature will be summarized.  Defining Closure and Reclamation The general activities associated with mining include the following: exploration, development, extraction, closure, and reclamation (Nelson, 2011).  This research focusses on the activities post-extraction, after the ore body has been depleted.  There can be differences between experts and governing bodies on exactly how closure and reclamation are defined, but often the terms are used synonymously as post-extraction activities (Australian Government - Department of Industry Tourism and Resources, 2006; Environment Canada, 2013; McHaina, 2001; Otto, 2010).   Further review of Nelson (2011), Peck & and Sinding, 2009, and S. Roberts, et al. (2000), terms such as decommissioning, restoration, reconstruction, abandonment and post-closure are also used within the realm of post-extraction, or closure and reclamation. All of these activities occur after mineral extraction is, for a variety of reasons, no longer possible (Laurence, 2006; McKenna et al., 2011).    After the review of current literature (Environment Canada, 2013; Government of Western Australia, 2015; Nelson, 2011; Otto, 2010; Peck & Sinding, 2009; S. Roberts, Veiga, & Peiter, 2000), this research will refer to closure and reclamation as work and activities that are conducted post mineral extraction; when the mine has ceased mineral production and is in the process of developing the land to be suitable for a different use. This work should always include, (and has for many years) consideration of physical stability, chemical stability, land use and aesthetics (Brodie, Robertson, & Gadsby, 1992; Cowan, Mackasey, & Robertson, 2010). Even though, progressive reclamation is conducted throughout the mine 54  life, this research will assume progressive reclamation is included when in this study’s definition of general closure and reclamation activities.   Cultural and Ecological Traditional Knowledge The use of traditional knowledge can help to understand the plants and animals of the region, but also how to sustainably manage the local resources (Johnson, 1992).  Wiles et al. (1999) found that traditional ecological knowledge was both, a detailed description of the environment and the wildlife, and “broader cultural comments”.  The cultural comments help provide detail on the social-cultural effects of a project which includes their identification with the land and their environment (Evans & Goodjohn, 2008; Wiles, Mcewen, & Sadar, 1999). This research analyzes both the detailed cultural comments and environmental descriptions within traditional knowledge, as described by Wiles et al. (1999). The literature on Aboriginal traditional knowledge provides considerable discussions on the environment (Eigenbrod & Hulan, 2008).  As many Aboriginal societies put great importance and dependency on a healthy environment, industry that affects the environment is seen as affecting their well-being and Aboriginal rights (Castellano, 2004).  It is also noted that there can be inherent differences between western scientific research and Aboriginal values, sensibilities and thought processes (Castellano, 2004; Danard, 2010; Haalboom, 2014).    Mine Closure and Sustainable Development Guidelines The technical requirements for mine closure planning are site specific, and the guidelines analyzed do not attempt to give exact requirements for successful closure planning (Cowan et al., 2010; Environment Canada, 2013; Government of Western Australia, 2015).  Each site should develop their own set of criteria and objectives that is acceptable to all stakeholders and rights holders, and ensures health, safety, and environmental protection in perpetuity (International Council on Mining & Metals, 2008; World Bank Group and International Finance Corporation, 2002).  In terms of the sustainable development guidelines within mine closure, most of the guidelines are not made specifically for mine closure (Xavier, 2013). Furthermore, none are specifically developed for planning and working with Indigenous communities. With the site specific nature of closure planning, this research aims to provide insight into working and developing closure planning objectives through the example of the New Afton Mine and the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation (SSN).      Aboriginal Consultation Guides The closure and reclamation section of the Exploration and Mining Guide for Aboriginal Communities (2013) discusses the environmental and social impacts of mining. The guide identifies stability of waste rock piles and mining slopes, tailings containment structures, and acid rock drainage and metal leaching as the main potential environmental impacts. For social impacts, during the closure phase of mining, a decrease in community capacity, losing social services, and a reduction of employment were mentioned (Government of Canada, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, The Mining Association of Canada, & Canadian Aboriginal Minerals Association, 2013).    55  The Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AMEBC) (2015) discusses engagement principles when working with Aboriginal communities.  AMEBC’s guidelines present the need for companies to have cultural awareness, respect, and strong information sharing systems with Aboriginal communities.  Respecting and understanding the culture, history, views, and priorities of Aboriginal communities is discussed as being paramount for successful engagement (Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia, 2015).    The British Columbia Government’s document, Building Relationships with First Nations (2015), discusses that for successful engagement and relationships with First Nations communities, understanding the significance of land and environmental protection for First Nations’ and Aboriginal communities is imperative.  Furthermore, recognizing capacity challenges for First Nations communities and understanding their “history, culture, governance, values, and interests” (Government of British Columbia, 2015).  Finally, the guideline discusses that companies need to help set up employment and other collaborative opportunities throughout all stages of the business.    In all, the guidelines for consulting with Aboriginal and First Nations communities attempt to argue for the value of understanding the community you are working with, recognizing that their history, territory, culture, wants, needs, and capacity challenges is paramount. Realizing that Aboriginal communities value economic opportunities and that during all aspects of mining, including closure, they need to be consulted and given an opportunity to participate.    Literature Review Summary: Improving Mine Closure Practices To improve closure planning, as explored in the analyzed literature, closure objectives need to be established through engagement with stakeholders and rights holders of the property.  In British Columbia, Canada, and many other places in the world, Indigenous, First Nations, and Aboriginal communities can play an important role in determining successful mine closure and reclamation outcomes.  There are a number of studies that explore the process of working with First Nations and Aboriginal communities in a resource extraction setting within environmental assessments and permitting (Haalboom, 2014; O’Faircheallaigh & Corbett, 2005; Whitelaw, McCarthy, & Tsuji, 2009; Wiles et al., 1999), but there is very limited research on improving mine closure, reclamation and long-term land use planning. This research analyzes how to use the traditional knowledge of First Nations communities in establishing mine closure and reclamation objectives. Furthermore, this research provides recommendations on how to engage with First Nations and Aboriginal communities for closure and reclamation planning.  METHODOLOGY  For this qualitative research, a case study with interviews (life history and narrative inquiry) with First Nations traditional knowledge keepers of the Skeetchestn and Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Indian Bands, photographs, and a document analysis were conducted.  A case study helps provide exploration of a bounded system (a time and place) to allow the researcher the ability to collect data through direct observation and interviewing of subjects (Creswell & Miller, 2000; Yin, 1994).    56  The Participants The eight participants of this research were traditional knowledge keepers of the Skeetchestn and Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Indian Bands. To gain a robust and well-rounded view from the communities, this research study interviewed an equal number of participants from both the Skeetchestn and Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc bands.  The interviewees were elders, non-elders and band office employees, who were considered traditional knowledge keepers.  Selecting a proper sample size can be a complex task based on many factors (Marshall & Rossman, 2011).  Due to the small populations of both bands and relatively small number of traditional knowledge keepers (estimated to be around 50), the research purpose of understanding the traditional knowledge and usage of the area can be satisfied with eight participants.   Procedure The researcher was based out of the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc office on the Skeetchestn reserve and had access to chief and council, and band office employees and management.  This greatly helped to facilitate communication with perspective participants, as well as establishing the interview protocols and procedures.  The interviews were approximately 40 minutes and were recorded on a digital recording device.  The recordings were then transcribed verbatim in the qualitative research data management software NVIVO.  The recordings were then preliminarily analyzed for themes and patterns using open coding (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Marshall & Rossman, 2011).    Interview Questions The interview questions are divided into four groups: plant life, wildlife, water, and overall land use. Questions were designed to understand the cultural, spiritual, medicinal, and nutritional significance of these groups at the New Afton Mine site, or, if they were not familiar with that area, nearby at the Cherry Creek Reserve (or wherever else the interviewee would be most knowledgeable). Moreover, to understand if and how they have seen mining impact their significant plants, wildlife, water and overall usage of the area. Finally, to understand what they would like to see addressed through closure, reclamation, and land use planning at New Afton.   Ethical Considerations and Validation of Results Ethical considerations were carefully planned and taken into account for this research.  Ethical standards were approved by both The University of British Columbia through the Behavioral Research Ethics Board (BREB) and the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation (SSN). The Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation required an Intellectual Property Agreement to take into account ethical considerations similar to what was outlined in the BREB application. The agreement also prescribed how credit would be given to the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation, and the specific knowledge keepers, if they chose to be acknowledged during the approval process.    RESULTS AND ANALYSIS  Qualitative data from eight semi-structured interviews was collected.  Responses were coded into four main sections, or as named in NVIVO, “nodes”. The four nodes/sections are: flora, fauna, water, and land use. Finally, during the initial coding for the first four nodes, there was considerable discussion on their 57  general views of mining and their thoughts on their relationship with New Gold, therefore a fifth node was created to consider this discussion.    In addition to interviews, site visits to old reclamation sites, native grasslands, and the New Afton mine took place with a few of the interviewees.  Field notes were taken to further understand all aspects of the land.  Finally, the limitations of this research study’s findings were analyzed in order to examine how they affect the transferability and generalizability for future work.  Flora Results and Analysis Responses explored the uses and cultural importance of flora, as well as how they should be considered during mine closure and reclamation planning.  Flora or plant life was considered a key cultural component for the First Nations communities.  Food, medicine, building materials (baskets, pit houses, tipis), and spiritual ceremonies were all identified as traditional plant uses. For closure planning, an emphasis from the interviews was on replanting the land using native plant species and to ensure protection from the invasive weeds. However, the level of reclamation required with these native species was different across the interviews.  Responses such as: pre-contact, a natural state as possible, a native grassland with native species as much as possible, were all mentioned.   In regards to discussions on reclamation and closure, most of the interviewees mentioned all native plants were seen as being important.  They did not specifically mention which plants they would like to see be revived. The interviewees mentioned reclaiming the land to support grazing was not a desirable outcome. There is an apparent lack of understanding of what is possible in terms of reclamation for plant life and what the site will look like in terms of vegetation post-extraction.   There were responses looking for closure to return the land to “pre-contact”:  Pre-contact in this sense is prior to any impacts to the land. Reclaiming the land back to “pre-contact” with today’s technology is more than likely not possible in the short term.  For a mining company, it is essential to be transparent of what is possible for closure objectives, understand the community’s desires, and try to be as accommodating as possible throughout the entire mine development process.  Cowan et al. (2010) and Roberts et al. (2000) discuss how a mine site evolves over time, and how continually working with communities is critical.  The discussion of Cowan et al. (2010) and Roberts et al. (2000), as mentioned, are echoed in the findings of this study.  The knowledge keepers did provide some exact closure activities that could be implemented, such as creating a native plant species nursery or greenhouse.  Providing future economic opportunities is a crucial part of sustainable development, as discussed by Dyllick and Hockerts (2002).  Having job opportunities though the native plant nursery post mineral-extraction would help achieve many aspects of sustainability.  Providing economic opportunities is also considered in the Aboriginal engagement guides as being of key consideration (Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia, 2015; Dyllick & Hockerts, 2002; Government of British Columbia, 2015; Government of Canada et al., 2013).  Fauna Results and Analysis 58  In terms of fauna, the responses were a discussion of the different species of animals around the New Afton Mine site, the cultural importance of these animals, and their thoughts on how they’d like to see wildlife be considered during mining, mine closure and reclamation. During the discussion of fauna, hunting and fishing was of central cultural importance for the traditional knowledge keepers being interviewed. The mine site and the area around the site (Greenstone Mountain, Cherry Creek) were identified as key traditional hunting grounds. Deer, moose, elk, salmon and trout were identified as key animals for the community to hunt and collect.  Furthermore, there was a general consensus of the importance and significance of all wildlife to the community, and that considering all fauna in a closure plan was essential.    Restricted access to the mine site was seen as a concern for the interviewees and their community’s cultural interactions with the fauna on their territory.  Finally, the health and well-being of the fauna was extensively explored, specifically ensuring that during and after mining the wildlife should not be exposed to dangerous toxins or chemicals.  It is apparent that hunting and fishing are of considerable worth of the community members, and that any impact to their ability to hunt and fish would be of great concern. With the essential goal of mine closure planning to ensure the highest levels of safety, fencing and restricting of access has been conducted consistently as stated by Cowan, Mackasey, & Robertson (2010) in a report to The National Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI). With such, it is of great concern from a number of the community members about how and if the mine closure plan will restrict access to the site. This restriction of access is seen as a major impact to their ability to hunt and fish in the region. The mining company has to first and foremost ensure safety is upheld, but the cultural significance of wildlife for hunting needs to be understood, and allowing for hunting needs to be reviewed.  In summary, site access, ecotoxicology management, and creating wildlife habitat through plant species are the key takeaways from the interviews for closure objectives and communication planning points.  Communicating closure planning during all phases of mining is consistently discussed throughout previous literature and echoed in this research (Laurence, 2006; Veiga et al., 2001; Warhurst & Noronha, 2000).  The community members want to be involved, and facilitating this could potentially help the company gain social acceptance of their closure plan and overall reputation. This research shows that through setting up of discussions on the various environmental impacts of mining, one can start to understand some of the community’s environmental cultural conservation expectations.       Water Results and Analysis All water bodies (lakes) and waterways (rivers, creeks, etc.) for the interviewees were seen as significant for their community. Wildlife (water fowl, Frogs/Toads/Amphibians) was considered alongside water. With water sustaining wildlife, both fishing and hunting were again discussed as being tied closely with their territory’s water.  There were a number of specific water features that were mentioned during the interviews. Kamloops Lake, Cherry Creek, the numerous alkali lakes, Greenstone Mountain, and Jacko Lake were all mentioned.   The use, and cultural and spiritual connection surrounding water is evident, and tailings, chemicals, toxins, and over-usage were mentioned as potential hazards to water caused by the mine site.  Ensuring 59  water was reclaimed to the highest level possible and sustaining wildlife were important mine closure objectives found in the interviews. Water and the impacts to water were considered as having the greatest significance and concern for their community. As discussed in the interviews, water quality affects both the flora and the fauna of the region, and therefore safe water ensures the preservation of the culturally important plants and wildlife.    These water management considerations and treatments continue to be central components of closure plans for the mining industry (Brodie et al., 1992; Goodbody, 2013; Warhurst & Noronha, 2000). There are numerous technical difficulties that need to be considered when storing, treating, and releasing water from a mine site (Bingham, 2011; Nelson, 2011) to ensure the water is suitable for drinking.  The key finding from this research for closure planning with First Nations communities is that the cultural significance of water is evident. Community members see water being properly revived in terms of the water being able to sustain wildlife and plant life. Communicating the impacts or non-impacts of the mine’s water usage to the plant and wildlife is therefore of utmost importance. Furthermore, there was discussion about ensuring that the water that needs to be stored on site, that may be contaminated, does not affect the groundwater or any other water bodies in the region.   Land Use Results and Analysis The themes in the land use discussions repeated many of the same themes in the water, fauna and flora nodes.  New Afton and the area nearby are and were used for hunting, fishing, and plant collecting (berries, medicinal plants etc.).  In addition, the area was discussed as historically being a stop-over and camping ground for travelers from the Skeetchestn Reserve to the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Reserve. Closure objectives were to bring the land back to as natural of a state as possible, with hunting, fishing, and plant collecting being the main land use.  Finally, during the land use discussions, a hunting blind that was discovered on the Ajax/KGHM site was considered. The hunting blind was considered as evidence for the presence of wildlife, and therefore cultural importance for their community.   The question however is, what is possible? Can the land be truly brought back to a natural state? This was discussed by a few interviewees, but many were not familiar with some of the technical constraints on the New Afton site. For closure planning, the discussions on land use provided further insight into the interrelation between wildlife, water, and plant life.  The First Nations community puts a very strong value on their environment.  It is evident that by not reclaiming the land back to an environmentally viable state, the local community will be “impoverished” as a result of the closure plan, as shown in the land use objectives stated by Warhurst et al. (2000).  What must be analyzed further is finding alternatives for not achieving the exact environmental reclamation as per the wants of the community.  However, not achieving the community’s environmental expectations could be considered a failure in the sense of sustainability (environmental, social, and economic), as analyzed in the Seven Questions to Sustainability Framework (IISD, 2007).  Again, the constraints of the possible closure options need to be openly discussed before and during all mining activities.  This can provide assistance for the community to understand what is and what is not possible in terms of closure objectives.   Thoughts about Mining Results and Analysis 60  There were a number of discussions on the interviewees’ thoughts on the current relationship between their community and New Gold.  The responses in this node were mixed in terms of their concerns, and what they decided to discuss about their relationship with New Gold.  Overall, it was positive, but the interviewees are still quite concerned with how current and potential environmental impacts are being managed. Respecting the community’s spirituality and customs was mentioned as an extremely positive part of the already existing relationship.  However, there was a lack of understanding of how the site will look after mining and what kinds of reclamation work will be carried out by New Gold. Furthermore, the success of these reclamation activities was not really trusted.  From this research, the key steps for a successful relationship in regards to closure will be to have the communities involved with understanding the site’s reclamation constraints, then establishing land use objectives, and finally determining a final land use. Communicating what is and what is not possible is a critical piece for cooperative closure planning. Once communicated and understood, detailed closure goals and plans can then be implemented.  Summary of Overall Themes For this case study, the cultural significance of the environment in terms of native plants and wildlife is evident for the traditional knowledge keepers.  Programs to conserve and manage wildlife and plant species are going to be key to the success of a closure and reclamation plan. Reclamation of the water and the soil to sustain plants and wildlife in order to return the land to where it was prior to mining seems to be the most desirable outcomes for the closure and reclamation plans.  Hunting, fishing, and plant harvesting are seen as the most valuable uses of the land.  The traditional knowledge can be used, as seen in this research study, to determine the significant plant life and wildlife to focus on during closure planning.  For this research, it was the animals that were used for hunting (moose, deer, geese etc.) and fishing that were discussed as being the most important. As well, the medicinal plants were of highest importance in terms of conserving and managing for the future. Engagement with the community needs to be undertaken to discuss what is and what is not possible in terms of closure planning. It is vital for the company to try and adhere to the requests of the community as best as possible during and after mining.   The importance of the environment for First Nations communities is also noted by Marlene & Castellano (2004), and in the Aboriginal consultation guidelines (Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia, 2015; Government of Canada et al., 2013), as culture is tied closely to the environment, and therefore impacts to the environment directly affect their community’s well-being.  The previous literature on closure planning describes the complexity of the process.  With today’s mining companies taking on sustainable development practices, a proactive approach for community involvement is necessary for closure success and acceptance.  This research shows that a dialogue of cultural heritage can help to establish closure objectives.  Limitations of Analysis This section discusses the limitations that could cause the greatest potential impact on this research study’s findings and ability to answer the aforementioned research questions.  The first is the fact that this 61  research study took place in the fall and winter months, perhaps influencing how the community saw the usage of the land.  Different traditional land uses occur during the warmer months of the year, and, perhaps if this research study took place at that time, the focus of the discussions and interview responses would have been on traditional knowledge for the Summer/Spring months.  The second limitation is whether the traditional knowledge keepers that were selected truly represented the traditional knowledge and mine closure needs/wants of the community.  The number of traditional knowledge keepers in this region is quite small in the first place, and access to more traditional knowledge keepers was limited by number of willing and able participants.  The researcher’s own biases and background could be considered as a limitation.  In addition to growing up in Canada, the researcher also has an educational background in the applied science and commerce fields from a Canadian university.    The final limitation is if it is even possible today to collect and understand the full spectrum of traditional knowledge and the expectations of the community.  There was a significant loss of traditional knowledge due to the numerous impacts to the transfer of knowledge between generations caused by the residential school systems of the 19th and 20th centuries.  Furthermore, the impacts of the residential school system as well as many other practices of European settlers has created communities to be extremely cautious when discussing their wants, needs, and traditional knowledge (Ignace, 2008).  This research study was organized through a partnership with the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation, which greatly helped to facilitate interview cultural protocols and establish a preliminary level of trust.  CONCLUSION  From the information gained through site visits, field notes, and traditional knowledge keeper interviews the following conclusions can be made:   There is a lack of understanding of what is possible from closure and reclamation activities.  How the land will look and the long term impacts to the wildlife and plant life post-mining.  Skeetchestn and the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc culture is strongly tied to the environment (hunting, fishing, plant gathering, and spiritual ceremonies), and is valued greatly.   The preservation of medicinal, nutritional, cultural, and spiritual native plant species is a key objective for closure planning.   For the Skeetchestn and the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc bands, access to their territory for hunting and fishing is an important land use objective.  There is value put towards employment and economic well-being throughout the mining operation.  Tailings, and other contaminated materials are of concern due to the potential to impact the soil and water and therefore health to the territory’s plants and animals.   The New Afton Mine is seen as one out of many other impacts to the land, such as other nearby mine sites, grazing, pipelines, forestry, and overall industry development.  Prior to any mining taking place, the New Afton Mine area was traditionally used as a stopping and camping ground for the Skeetchestn and the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc bands. o In addition, the presence of the nearby hunting blind signifies to the community that the area around New Afton was historically extensively used for hunting as well as possible opportunistic native plant species collecting. 62   Requiring companies working on their territory to understand First Nations culture and history is crucial.  Respect and being open to different points of view is paramount during all stages of collaboration.  In all, hunting, fishing, and plant harvesting are seen as the most valuable uses of the land.  The limitations of the analysis of this research are discussed in previous literature and should be noted with the concluding statements as well.  The challenges in terms of generalizability and transferability of this research study to other First Nations bands in British Columbia, and Aboriginal communities in Canada, could be difficult in a number of senses. First Nations and Aboriginal communities in Canada have their own distinct traditional knowledge, culture, land use, and values, and some of the specific findings from this research should not be applied to other nations. This research study’s goal was to provide a case study example for insight into closure planning of a specific mine and should be used only as a reference and an example to work with First Nations and Indigenous communities to establish objectives for closure and reclamation planning.  In addition, this research should not be viewed as a comprehensive cultural heritage study for the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation. Any use or application of the cultural and traditional knowledge contained in this research, should be discussed, and approved by the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation.  When relating these conclusions to the Aboriginal consultation guidelines in the literature review, it can be seen that this study confirms many of their statements. Having respect and taking the time to understand the community’s culture and history is paramount., realizing the significance of the land and the environment, and understanding that First Nations culture is tied to the land and the environment.  In addition, as found in both this research and the literature, creating economic opportunities for First Nations communities is vital during the closure, reclamation, and post-closure stages of the operation (Government of Canada et al., 2013).     Applying these conclusions and First Nations traditional knowledge can no doubt help to improve a mine closure, reclamation, and land use plan in terms of many aspects of sustainable development. Again as stated, it helps greatly to align closure planning to adhere to the community’s views for environmental protection (wildlife, plant life, water sources), as well as their social and economic needs. For the company, it helps to attain community acceptance, to improve company reputation, and to adhere to the industry’s push towards sustainable mining.   RECOMMENDATIONS AND FUTURE WORK  Through this research study’s analysis and conclusions there are a number of recommendations, new questions, and potential future work that have manifested.   Recommendations From this research study, it is recommended that, when establishing mine closure objectives and working with First Nations community members, planners need to:  1. Respect, conserve, and help develop First Nations culture. 63  a. Understand culture is tied to the environment. 2. Realize planners have a critical role to play in preserving both the environment and First Nations’ culture. 3. Be flexible, understanding, and consistent during all discussions and engagement. 4. The technical limitations of the site need to be clearly communicated to the First Nations communities.  a. The New Afton Mine uses block caving techniques, subsidence will be an issue for areas of the site indefinitely.   5. Allowing land access is an important objective for First Nations communities. a. With New Afton, the subsidence zones will be fenced or access will be restricted in order to uphold public safety.  This needs to be carefully discussed and explained.  As a final land use, this research discussed the possibility of a native plant species nursery run by the local bands, perhaps providing educational tours for people to learn about the native plant species, their names, what they were used for, and how to use them.  This type of land use helps provide economic opportunities for the community, while developing cultural and traditional land use practices in the region.    Future Research and Studies The technical constraints from mining for developing a sustainable land use will always be significant. In general, to fully align to the community’s wants and needs, closure and reclamation technologies need to continue to improve.  Future studies should analyze land uses that could provide avenues of cultural education and preservation, and lasting employment opportunities. Specifically for New Afton, to explore what can be done in terms of usage and reclaiming of subsidence zones.   Some new questions that have arisen from this research for possible future studies are:  1. Is society efficiently helping to develop innovative technologies and methods for closure and reclamation?  2. Is society properly incorporating First Nations communities into closure, reclamation, and general mining development planning?   3. Do First Nations communities have the capacity to work with mining companies on reports such as Environmental Assessments, Permits, Impact Benefit Agreements, etc., and what can be done to support them? 4. What can be done to improve the post-mining land use planning process for First Nations communities? 5. How do the wants and needs differ across First Nations and Aboriginal communities in British Columbia and/or Canada for mining and mine closure objectives? 6. How can we better integrate First Nations community wants and needs into closure and reclamation policy? 64   ACKNOWLEGEMENTS  I would like to acknowledge the members of both the Skeetchestn and Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Indian Bands for sharing with me their knowledge, traditions, culture and for being welcome hosts during my time in their territory. 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