6 Questions with Korah, First Nations Coordinator at New Afton Mine
While New Afton’s current life of mine ends in early 2030 and ongoing exploration could potentially extend the mine life, they recognize that a comprehensive social plan like of this scope will take time, and that is why they are getting a head start. New Gold’s Beyond New Afton Project is meant to minimize the negative impacts of the closure process on people and communities.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Korah De Walt-Gagnon, First Nations Coordinator for New Afton Mine to discuss her role and what this project means for our community.Korah, you are the First Nations Coordinator for New Gold’s New Afton Mine part of the team leading the ‘Beyond New Afton’ Project, tell me how did the idea come to fruition? Why is it important to start the process now?
The idea came from New Gold’s Cerro San Pedro Mine in Mexico, as they invested heavily in equipping the community and mine workers with the tools to transition to a sustainable post-mining economy. We loved the work they did with the employees and community partners. As the process for developing a closure plan has been constantly evolving, New Afton felt that creating a collaborative plan followed New Gold’s values, one of which is Integrity. The BNA Project is an example of “doing what is right.”
There is no better time than the present, to be proactive in identifying possible solutions with our community for the future.
The ‘Beyond New Afton’ Project is proactive and forward-thinking, has this type of planning been something that other resource-based organizations have tackled before? Why or why not?
While every mine site is unique, most mine closure requirements focus on environmental, remediation and end land use. This social impact focus is an area that more and more mining companies are engaging in. New Gold is dedicated to creating sustainable benefits for our host communities and the Beyond New Afton Project allows us to collaborate with our communities to build a plan for the future.
The Beyond New Afton Committee | Photo Credit: New Afton Mine
If an organization wanted to tackle this type of planning, what would you say is the first step?
For New Afton, our first step was learning from others. We talked with representatives from New Gold’s Cerro San Pedro Mine to learn about their process to gain knowledge on how we can build a plan at New Afton. The next step was creating our Beyond New Afton Committee that is comprised of 10 internal and external members and our Steering Committee with representatives from New Afton’s Management Team. Together the committees have stepped up to provide their insight into developing a project that is inclusive, bringing many diverse voices to the table.
What are the anticipated social impacts of the ‘Beyond New Afton’ project? Can you share some examples with us?
A social impact is how an organization’s, business’ or individual’s actions affect our communities, neighbourhoods and society. We believe that by engaging with our employees and community of interest groups that we can build creative solutions for the Beyond New Afton Plan.
An example could be, availability of highly skilled workers to fill current skills gaps and start new businesses in our community or another example is community investment strategies that plan for legacy projects with not-for-profit organizations.
What other stakeholders are currently involved in this process? Are you looking for input from the local community as well? If so, how can they participate in the ‘Beyond New Afton’ Project?
In leading up to the announcement of this project, our Beyond New Afton team reached out to many local stakeholders to inform them about the project and seek their input on how to engage their stakeholders to provide input on the Beyond New Afton Plan. COVID-19 has impacted our original plan; however, we are working with groups to ensure we are finding safe ways, that follow all COVID-19 protocols, in order to receive input into the Beyond New Afton Plan.
Some examples of specific groups that we are actively engaging with include:
New Afton employees and their families
Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc
Skeetchestn Indian Band
New Afton suppliers, contractors and vendors
Further, we want to hear from our local community to ensure we capture input from those who are interested in sharing their ideas by participating in the Beyond New Afton Survey. www.bit.ly/BeyondNewAfton
When will the ‘Beyond New Afton’ Plan be completed? What are the next steps?
We are starting our engagement with employees and the community in 2021 and hope to conclude engagement in 2022. Together with the creative ideas and solutions of our employees and the community, our goal is to develop a Beyond New Afton Plan in 2023. However, we recognize that the Beyond New Afton Plan will be a living document that will be updated regularly as new information is made available.
‘Beyond New Afton’ wants your feedback! Take the Beyond New Afton Survey here.
Be a part of the planning to help build a plan for the future of our community with New Afton Mine. If you’re looking for more information on the project or have questions, review the list of Frequently Asked Questions here.