Working Together to Protect the Woodland Caribou

June 25, 2014

The Quintette steelmaking coal mine, located in the Peace region of northeastern British Columbia, previously operated for a period of nearly 18 years, up until 2000. Since 2010, work has been conducted to prepare the site for a potential restart. The area is also home to the woodland caribou, which was designated a species at risk in Canada in 2002. The Quintette project was designed to minimize and mitigate our impact on the caribou. The creation of a caribou mitigation and monitoring plan (CMMP) was integral to this process.

The approach we took for our CMMP follows our biodiversity mitigation hierarchy. First, we take all feasible steps to avoid impacting high-value caribou habitat. Second, we plan measures to minimize our impacts, such as preventing the obstruction of caribou movement. For example, we prohibit access to areas other than approved routes. Third, we design our reclamation activities to restore functioning caribou habitat as soon as feasible, and to minimize creating ideal habitats for other ungulate species such as moose and elk, which would attract wolves and, in turn, would put caribou at risk of predation. In the plan, we also propose securing caribou habitat to offset what will be disturbed by our proposed mining operation.

From the earliest stages, the development of our CMMP incorporated review and feedback from several Treaty 8 First Nations. This made it possible for us to incorporate First Nation priorities into the plan from the very beginning. We also committed to updating the plan when new information becomes available that affects our mitigation and monitoring strategies.

In addition to our CMMP, we helped lead the way in creating a regional collaboration between area Treaty 8 First Nations, government regulators, industry colleagues and other interested parties, such as the BC Wildlife Federation, around common goals for caribou recovery. We provided funding for an independent facilitator to guide these regional groups in developing prioritized action plans based on shared information and values. This regional collaboration, known as the Peace Northern Caribou Committee, is now largely led by Treaty 8 First Nations, particularly the Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations. Together, the committee has been able to implement several on-the-ground actions to increase caribou populations, including construction of a 4-hectare enclosed area to feed female caribou and protect them against predators during calving season.

“It was Teck’s initial leadership and funding that was the germination of our group and their continued financial support of the penning project that has allowed our group to move on with the project and hopefully the rebuilding of the Klinse-Za caribou herd,” said Brian Pate, Coordinator, Peace Northern Caribou Committee.

First Published on June 25, 2014