Mining for the Environment
Lafarge’s Wildlife at Work certification shows how aggregate operations can coexist in harmony with the environment.
Acompany’s gravel pit one day is another person’s wildlife-filled park down the line.
Lafarge has partnered with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) to turn mined- out pits into wildlife refuges, wetlands, and meadows, showing that an industry that often suffers from NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) is good for the environment and is actively working to make its sites welcoming to wildlife and native vegetation.
“For a long time, Lafarge globally has recognized the impact that extracting aggregate has — just the footprint alone,” says Wade Frick, environmental manager of Greater Calgary and Greater Winnipeg for Lafarge North America. “But there is more to it than that. We recognize the impact mining can leave on the landscape, so we decided to explore a certification rooted in biodiversity and sustainability.”
Lafarge joined WHC as a corporate member in 1992 and became involved with the WHC’s Wildlife at Work certification program. The company is also involved in several other environment programs globally, including the World Wildlife Fund.
Most recently, two Lafarge sites in Calgary, Alberta, Canada — Bow River Aggregates and Lafarge Meadows — have been certified by WHC’s Wildlife at Work program. Lafarge Meadows was initially certified in 2009 and applied for recertification in 2011. The site will be up for recertification in 2014. Bow River was initially certified in 2011 and will have to submit for recertification in 2013.
Both sites were among the 251 sites recognized in mid-February at the WHC’s 23rd Annual Symposium titled, “People, Partnerships, and Pathways,” for creating or maintaining a Wildlife at Work program.
When it was operational, Lafarge Meadows — known as South Pit — was a 150-acre area that is now part of Fish Creek Provincial Park. This site was made into an extension of Fish Creek Park after Lafarge donated the reclaimed property. The site is adjacent to the Bow River and contains a network of constructed wetlands, grasslands, and riparian areas. All 150 acres of the site are actively managed for wildlife as part of Fish Creek Provincial Park.
The wildlife management team worked with The Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park and community volunteers to control invasive species on site and to remove litter from the site. They have also worked together to conduct extensive monitoring of the parks’ amphibian populations since 2008. According to data included in Lafarge’s certification application, about 17 percent of the amphibians observed in 2009 were recorded in the Lafarge Meadows section of the park, and that increased to 41 percent in 2010. This, along with other data, indicates that the constructed wetlands are “effectively filtering storm water runoff and creating a healthy environment for amphibians,” according to the WHC.
Lafarge has also partnered with the McInnis & Holloway Funeral Home in Calgary for its Memorial Forest Program. For a fee, a tree can be donated in a loved one’s name. “The funeral home is always looking for a place to plant,” Lafarge’s Frick explains. “It’s a challenge for them to find areas to plant trees so we piggybacked on this partnership since 2004-2005 — the first year the funeral home started planting within Fish Creek Park — to make it part of our Lafarge Meadows reclamation project. Now this area is being reforested.”
The wildlife management team has been working with the funeral home since 2008, planting more than 6,500 trees native to Alberta, Frick says. “This is a significant contribution to the ecosystem,” he adds.
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