On World Rivers Day, Rio Tinto BC Works is pleased to highlight the Nechako Water Engagement Initiative (WEI). The WEI is a multi-stakeholder water use planning initiative aimed at enhancing the understanding and improvement of how Rio Tinto’s operations in the Nechako River affect various environmental, social, and economic interests within the watershed.
In the early 1950s, the Aluminum Company of Canada (Alcan, now Rio Tinto) constructed a dam across the Nechako River as part of their aluminum smelter in Kitimat. The Kenney dam, 80km south west of Vanderhoof, created the Nechako Reservoir and facilitated diversion of water west to Kemano, Rio Tinto’s hydroelectric generating station. The new reservoir flooded thousands of hectares of land and significantly reduced downstream flows in the Nechako River.
Now, nearly 70 years later, the WEI brings together Indigenous peoples, along with federal, provincial, and local governments, academia, stakeholder groups, and community members to guide Rio Tinto BC Works toward more informed and environmentally responsible operations. WEI is an interest-based, collaborative, and open process to share information and recommend improvements to water management and the affected interests like fish and wildlife, cultural sites and traditional use, flooding and erosion, recreation and navigation, Rio Tinto’s hydroelectric and aluminum operations, and energy supply to BC residents.
The process is led by independent facilitators (Environmental Dynamics Inc.) and is supported by objective, technical specialists (led by Ecofish Research Ltd.). WEI adheres to self-imposed guiding principles and uses structured decision-making based on the best available science and participant knowledge. The anticipated outcomes of WEI include improved relationships and enhanced communication, changes to how Rio Tinto stores and releases water, scientific studies to fill data gaps, and physical works in the reservoir and river, all to improve the balance of environmental, social, and economic interests.
To find out how you can be involved or informed, visit the WEI page.
BC Works hosts an annual BBQ at the Skins Lake Spillway campsite in the watershed region to show our appreciation to Southside residents and to the multiple First Nations in the area. This year, we held the BBQ on Aug. 25 and saw over 300 people attend. The main purpose of the event is to get people together, to share a meal and engage with residents in the area.
To make this evening a success, we rely on our partners in the region. For instance, everyone gets steak for dinner and that beef comes from the 4-H auction, and the food is served by 4-H kids. Another partner – Grassy Plains Community Hall Society puts together a generous feast and are instrumental in the success of the event. We also give out door prizes, which are gift cards from stores in the Southside. Additionally, one of our key contractors at the Spillway is Cheslatta Contracting LLP and they help the Spillway attendants with the organization and execution of the BBQ.
All-in-all this event is meant to bring the community together and to support the various businesses in the Southside.
Photos (from top to bottom): (1) Lianne Olson, Senior Advisor CSP with her husband Kenny at the Spillway BBQ; (2) Community gathers for a delicious BBQ; (3) Clint Lambert, Director – RDBN and owner of a business on the Southside serves steaks; (4) Quinten Beach, Nechako Operations Coordinator shares a few words of appreciation to those gathered.
BC Works wants to know more about what’s important to you.
We invite you to share your feedback by completing a short survey.
We want our operations to reflect the values and needs of local communities. This is the legacy we aim to create, together.
Thank you for taking time to share your valuable feedback with us.
Please check out our recent newsletter to meet our team, learn more about our investment program and ways you can get involved
BC Works has released its 2022 Sustainability Update that highlights our contributions to the local and BC economy, our community investments, our environmental and biodiversity performance and more.
Our approach to sustainability is guided by Rio Tinto’s purpose: finding better ways to provide the materials the world needs. In 2022, many of our investments were focused on assisting the low-carbon transition, as well as our of being the best possible partner to our host communities.
New online platform gives a transparent view of our surface water use
In some places we operate, water can be scarce. In others, we have to remove water to operate safely. Everywhere we work, we share this important resource with local communities, whose health, safety and livelihoods also rely on them.
So it’s critical that we manage water at all of our operations carefully – and transparently.
Sharing our water usage
In 2019, we set ourselves a goal – by the end of 2023, we would disclose how much surface water we were allocated, and how much we were using.
Early in 2023, we launched a new, interactive platform that shows our surface water allocations and usage at our sites.
It’s kind of like Google Maps, but for water.1 No matter where we are in the world, anyone, anywhere can check how we’re using the surface water we’re allocated.
A tool of this kind is an industry first, both in the level of detail provided, and way it’s published on an intuitive geo-location platform. And surface water is just the beginning – we want to disclose more across our ESG performance, and will be working on plans to achieve that soon.
By making this information clearly and easily accessible to everyone, we’ll be able to have more meaningful conversations with governments, partners, and communities we work with about how we use water across our operations around the world.
We’re also publishing all our surface water allocation and usage data from the past five years. And we can provide additional historical data on request.
Managing different water risks across our operations
Water is a precious resource, so we know we need to balance our operational needs with those of local communities and ecosystems.
We manage a range of water risks across our business, so we’ve set targets – tailored to the specific challenges at each site – and publicly report on progress against each one.
In addition to a company-wide goal, we set six site-based targets based on their water risk profile, our International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) commitments, and local community and environmental interdependencies.
This month, Rio Tinto is celebrating the completion of the Kemano T2 Project, securing sustainable operations in B.C. for decades to come. Read more about this milestone in the final Project Update.
It’s with mixed emotions that I am introducing the last Kemano T2 Project update. We are extremely proud of the work accomplished these past years but saddened to leave such a unique area where Mother Nature is in charge.
The recently completed Kemano T2 Tunnel has been generating power since the Operational Commissioning process was successfully completed in the summer. Both tunnels are now operating simultaneously to feed the Kemano Powerhouse after T1 operated on its own for more than 70 years.
This brings to a close what has been an extraordinary project delivered by so many, past and present. I am honored and moved to witness the result of the work of generations of workers over 3 decades. We were grateful to have been presented with the 2022 Tunnel Achievement Award for Project Excellence in September.
This award recognizes successfully completed projects that demonstrate innovation and teamwork and provide benefits to the community, and it is the first time the Tunnel Achievement Award has recognized a private-sector project!
We have completed the demobilization of the project. A small team finalized the last of the non-waterway works during the past weeks.
We have started the implementation of the revegetation plan, about which you will find more information in this Project Update.
Our goal was to deliver the Kemano T2 Project safely, in respect of the environment and surrounding communities, and I can proudly say, mission accomplished!
Rio Tinto is proud to support the Indigenous-led archaeological research project
The sites around Taticheck lake are unique and abound in historical significance. Thousands of artefacts, village sites and human remains can help us better understand our past. Supporting this Indigenous-led research project as a partner to the Cheslatta Carrier Nation was something we wanted to be a part of.
This weekend we had the honor to attend a Cheslatta Carrier Nation campout to announce the partnership and learn more about their heritage.
At Rio Tinto, we are humbled that we get to play a small role in discovering and learning more about Indigenous culture and traditions that could impact how we understand the history of human migrations in North America.
Rio Tinto BC Works’ Operations Director Andrew Czornohalan attended the campout and shared the importance of the partnership to him with his colleagues (see below).
Rio Tinto’s Andrew Czornohalan’s message to the BC Works Team
The Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto are embarking together on a significant archaeological project to excavate cultural and historical sites, some with an estimated 10,000-year-old history.
Rio Tinto will contribute CAD $2.8 million dollars to this remarkable Cheslatta led project that will help archeologists collect, preserve and study artifacts found around Tatichek Lake, which sits on the southeast side of the Nechako Reservoir. This will be the first archaeological project of this magnitude that Rio Tinto will be sponsoring in North America and it sits right in our backyard.
Over the weekend, I had the incrediblyunique opportunity to visit the Tatichek archaeological site. There is something so humbling to stand in a place that has such extraordinary history, where important conversations were held, and memories were made. The sense of humanity and connection, really a window to the past was overwhelming, thinking of those who lived, shared, loved, laughed, lost, struggled and triumphed in this location over countless generations will live with me for my lifetime.
As we explore and study these unique sites and artifacts, we will gain insights into past lives and establish timelines of occupation, trading networks, and resource gathering. Through archaeology, pieces history can be reconstructed, and we can understand so much more about the way of life, the culture and the traditions of people. It will also enhance our understanding of the Indigenous communities and human migration patterns in North America. It was believed that Tatichek Lake was located on one of three major migration routes that brought humans all the way from Alaska to the southwest of the United States.
This project aims to preserve and protect unique elements of Cheslatta heritage that we are grateful to be able to recover after the flooding and forest fires that this land has experienced. This project will have a tremendous impact on the reflection and rebuilding we continue to do to strengthen the relationship with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation and the learnings and lessons we take with us into the future.
We truly appreciate and it is quite humbling reflecting on the trust Cheslatta has in us to be part of this project. We will continue to build upon the New Day agreement and strengthen the relationship between the Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto. This project represents a significant step forward in building a more respectful and inclusive future and we are very proud to be a part of it.
Do you know about Rio Tinto’s partnership with UNBC?
The Tahtsa Ranges Atmospheric Rivers Experiment (TRARE) is part of the natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)/Rio Tinto Industrial Research Chair project. This is a five-year long project that has many different components dedicated to examining the hydrology of the Nechako River Watershed. This experiment is super exciting because it’s the first of its kind in Canada!
Dr. Stephen Dery is the lead on this project and has been researching Pineapple Express Storms. These storms are actually rivers in the sky that originate in the Pacific Ocean and bring LOTS of moisture to the north. Dr. Dery and his team are studying how much and what type of precipitation these storms produce to better understand how they affect the Watershed. With climate change, these storms will occur more frequently which can raise the water levels and cause landslides or washouts and harm the surrounding ecosystems. Knowing how Pineapple Express Storms affect the water, it can be easier to predict high water levels and plan accordingly.
Great work being done by Dr. Dery and his team!
Check out these videos to learn more about the work being done by Dr. Dery and his team.
We are looking for a Communities & Communications Advisor to contribute to our Communities team in the Nechako Watershed. You will be part of a cross-disciplinary group of colleagues throughout the province in building collaborative and lasting relationships with community partners. This role is based in Burns Lake or Vanderhoof, BC.
Did you know that Rio Tinto maintains a public campsite on the shores of Ootsa Lake?
The campsite is free to users and includes running water to most sites, free firewood, picnic tables, boat launch, a few docks and a large public gazebo with cement barbeque pit and grill.
The campsite is maintained and managed by Rio Tinto as an offer of appreciation from us to our host communities. We invite visitors to come and enjoy the campsite and take advantage of the beautiful scenery and what the outdoors has to offer.
Most importantly, think ‘safety’ this summer. Wear lifejackets, be cautious around campfires, be aware that we share the outdoors with wildlife and take safety precautions in areas where wildlife may be near.