Mine rescue training; Duck Pond operations
The Duck Pond operation is a productive and safe workplace due to the combined effects of a “zero-harm” objective, environmental action and a proactive approach to human resource management.
It’s been just over a year since production began at Teck Cominco’s Duck Pond operations, an underground copper-zinc mine and processing mill located in central Newfoundland. The operation was acquired as part of the friendly takeover of Aur Resources in August 2007. Annual production is approximately 657,000 tonnes of high-quality ore, a yearly output that is expected to continue for the next five to six years.
The Duck Pond operation transports uncrushed ore to the surface through a ramp in the footwall of the deposit. It is then fed through a jaw crusher and sent to a 1,500-tonne coarse ore bin. It is processed using a SAG mill, ball mill and flotation process to produce separate copper and zinc concentrates, which are transported to a storage and shipping facility at the port of St. George’s on the island’s west coast.
From the beginning, core areas of focus for the company have been workplace safety, environmental management and human resources. The efforts certainly appear to be worth it, with a reduction in work-related incidents, a full complement of employees (despite industry hiring woes) and the implementation of proactive solutions to environmental concerns.
Duck Pond general manager Bob Kelly explained that the standard they are striving for is a “zero-harm” work environment, and said that doing so is just good business practice. “We want people to come to work and leave it in at least as good a shape as when they came,” he said. “When employees feel safe and secure in their workplace, they are more likely to enjoy coming to work, which affects their productivity level in a positive way. From day one, the standard was zero incident.”
Staying safe on the job requires awareness on all levels, beginning long before an incident even occurs. Although the company has strong surface and underground emergency response teams, as well as the appropriate protective equipment, Kelly asserted that employee involvement is a key part of the process. If an accident does occur, it is investigated not from a perspective of assigning blame, but rather from one of education and prevention. “We put a lot of focus on incident awareness and investigation,” added Kelly. “We investigate, look for root causes and perform a followup.”
As a matter of fact, the company takes advantage of “near-hits” — an unplanned event that did not result in a loss, but could have. Every near-hit is reported and investigated, so that the problem can be avoided in the future. Add to that job safety analysis, regular risk assessments and having the right protective equipment on hand, and the result is an impressive safety record at Duck Pond. As of February 2008, the underground mine had operated without a “lost time incident” for the previous two years, which is a significant milestone for an industrial environment.
“In addition to doing regular ‘walk-arounds’ to inspect different areas, we also conduct health and safety audits,” said Kelly. “We go back to the last quarter and review all of the incidents that occurred, what the findings were and see if they were put in place. Followup is critical.”