Chief sustainability officer's review

Production ramp-up progressed safely

In 2017, we continued systematic work to develop our safety culture, and the results showed further improvement. Terrafame’s management system was certified, and we extended the work by auditing our partners. At the end of August, we filed a new environmental permit application with the authority, covering all our operations.

The development of an occupational safety culture requires long-term work. We started this work at Terrafame at the very beginning of operations in autumn 2015, and clear signs of improvement in our safety culture were already visible during 2016. In 2017, we continued to refine our safety practices and placed even greater emphasis on preventive safety work. I am particularly happy about the fact that our progress during this period has been even more rapid than anticipated.

In 2017, Terrafame’s personnel experienced 4 lost-time injuries, making the lost-time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) 3.5 injuries per one million person-hours worked (2016: 8.4). The LTIFR was set at under 5.0, so the target was clearly achieved. Furthermore, the LTIFR of Terrafame’s partner companies operating at the site decreased to 11.7 (2016: 19.4).

The significant reduction in both Terrafame’s and its partner companies’ LTIFR demonstrates that the safety work has produced results. During the year, there were no serious injuries related to tools, machinery or equipment. The longest lost-time injury was caused by slipping.

Management system was certified and partner companies were audited

The building of Terrafame’s management system had already reached the external audit phase by the end of the previous year and, in February 2017, the company received certificates on quality, environmental, and occupational health and safety management. The certification of the management system proves that our personnel are working systematically throughout the organisation.

In 2017, the focus of maintenance and development of the management system was on audits. We conducted several audits of our contractual partners during the year focusing on safety and operating 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 site was jointly developed.

At the end of the year, we initiated the self-assessments related to the Finnish Towards Sustainable Mining Standard. Our goal is to conclude the self-assessments in 2018 and to start developing our operations based on the results of the self-assessments.

Water management became part of normal operations

At the start of Terrafame’s operations, the water storage pools at the site were full, and the most significant environmental risks were associated with water management. During 2016, we managed to reduce water levels in the water storage pools considerably, which also meant a reduction in risk levels.

During 2017, the volume of stored water was brought down to the target level of 1–3 million cubic metres and, during the course of the year, water management has become part of our site’s normal operations. Naturally, we continue to monitor the volume of stored water closely and, at the same time, maintain preparedness for exceptional weather conditions.  

During 2017, a total of 5.3 million cubic metres of purified water was released from Terrafame’s site. The sulphate load was 10,468 tonnes, which was clearly below the volume specified in the environmental permit. The metal concentrations of purified water were also clearly below environmental permit limit values, apart from a few individual exceptions.

A new environmental permit application was submitted in August

The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) issued its decision on Terrafame’s environmental permits on 9 May 2017. It requires Terrafame to file for a new environmental permit for its entire operations with Northern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency (RSAA) by the end of August 2017.

A new permit process was already required in the decision issued by Vaasa Administrative Court in April 2016. For this reason, we had initiated two Environmental Impact Assessments, or EIA procedures, as early as autumn 2016. The EIA report on water management was submitted to the Kainuu Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) acting as supervisory authority in April, and the EIA report on the continuation and further development of mining operations was submitted in August 2017. The ELY Centre issued its statement on the EIA report on water management in July, and the statement on the EIA report on the continuation and further development of mining operations in December 2017. The statements by the contact authority form part of our environmental permit application.

We filed the environmental permit application covering all operations with the RSAA within the time limit prescribed by the SAC, at the end of August 2017. The environmental permit decision is expected in the first half of 2019, and our current permits will be valid until the new environmental permit is enforceable.

Veli-Matti Hilla
Chief Sustainability Officer
Terrafame Ltd