Chief sustainability officer's review
Safety requires commitment and continuous efforts
Key themes for 2018 were the development of a safety culture, the implementation of a sustainable mining standard, the minimisation of environmental load, as well as the assessment of the battery chemicals plant environmental effects.
From the occupational safety perspective, the year 2018 was twofold for Terrafame. We put a lot of effort into developing our safety culture, which showed, for example, as a reduction in the number of eye injuries. On the other hand, the year also saw more lost-time injuries compared to the previous year, even though the total recordable injuries (TRI) rate remained at the previous year’s level.
One of the accidents that led to absence from work was a serious injury due to falling, where the risk was not identified beforehand. This accident showed us in concrete terms that safety must be kept in mind every single moment in every task.
In 2018, Terrafame’s personnel experienced eight lost-time injuries, making the lost-time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) 7.4 injuries per one million person-hours worked (2017: 3.5). The workers of partner companies operating in Terrafame’s industrial site experienced 11 lost-time injuries, which makes the LTIFR 10.1 (2017: 11.7).
Using new means to attain the long-term goal
Developing a safety culture takes a long time and results can rarely be seen very quickly. Terrafame’s injury frequency rate improved from 23.3 in 2015 to 3.5 by 2017, which was an exceptionally rapid improvement. Although our LTIFR took an upward trend in 2018, I strongly believe that with hard work and commitment we will be able to change the course back towards our long-term goal of zero accidents.
In latter part of 2018, we launched several new safety-related measures. We identified occupational safety risks throughout the organisation, covering all tasks. We also launched a ’Don’t get hurt’ safety campaign, which has many different themes, including road safety, slippery conditions and darkness. The campaign will extend to 2019, at which time we will renew the compulsory safety info for all personnel and launch new safety training for managerial staff.
Sustainable mining standard self-assessments were completed In 2018
In 2018, the maintenance and development of our management system focused on internal audits. We also carried out many contract partner audits in which the emphasis was on safety and the operational culture. Furthermore, we organised three contractor meetings over the year, during which the practices of our partner companies operating at the site were reviewed, and safety at the industrial site was jointly developed.
Self-assessments related to the sustainable mining standard were launched in 2017, and we completed them during 2018. During the assessments, various development ideas emerged, which we now have embarked on. We have also developed our documentation to meet the assessment tool’s requirements.
Our aim is for the development measures agreed to be completed so that we can assess the first parts of the mining liability programme already in the external audit to be carried out in 2019.
Sulphate loading well below the permit’s quota
A total of 2.5 million cubic meters of water was discharged from the mining site during 2018. The sulphate loading in our discharge water was 3,434 tonnes when the environmental permit would have allowed 16,300 tonnes. The markedly lower sulphate loading rate was due to being able to maintain the production process in a closed cycle for several months thanks to the excellent operation of the bioleaching process and moderate precipitation.
Although the sulphate loading rate in 2018 was very low, Terrafame finds it important that the future environmental permit also allows discharging extra waters from the site when this is necessary due to abundant rainfall.
The metal loading of our discharge water was still low in 2018. The metal concentrations were typically approximately one-tenth of the limits set in the environmental permit. Due to the low concentrations of metal in the discharge water, the Northern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency (RSAA), in its decision of November 2018, concluded that Terrafame’s discharge pipe in Nuasjärvi is not required to have a separate mixing zone, i.e. an area in which the concentrations would fall below the environmental quality standards for natural waters.
The environmental effects of the battery chemicals plant have been assessed
In November 2017, Terrafame reported its plan to invest in the production of chemicals for batteries used in electric vehicles. We launched the project's environmental impact assessment process (the EIA process) in spring 2018, and the final report of the assessment (EIA report) was submitted in October to the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for Kainuu Region, which acts as the coordinating authority.
The environmental impact assessment showed that the project can be carried out without significant effects on the environment. The environmental impact assessment of the battery chemicals plant has been made in parallel with process design activities. The design takes account of the environmental aspects in various ways, for example, by redirecting side streams back into the process for recovery to avoid the emergence of waste fractions. Another aim of the design has been to find energy efficient solutions.
The environmental permit application is progressing
We have filed the environmental permit application covering all operations with the RSAA within the time limit prescribed by the Supreme Administrative Court, at the end of August 2017. We supplemented this application in July 2018 and now wait for a new environmental permit decision to be issued in late 2019. Our current environmental permits will remain in place until the new environmental permit enters into force.
In October 2017, we have filed a permit application for uranium recovery with the Finnish Government. During 2018, we worked on the recovery-related documentation as required by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.
Chief Sustainability Officer