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O3 Mining achieves ECOLOGO certification ahead of 2026 production goal

IMAGE: O3 Mining workers on-site
O3 Mining employees working on-site. (Courtesy O3 Mining Inc.)

O3 Mining Inc. hopes to stand out among its mining industry peers by the time it starts producing gold – which is planned for 2026. Part of that uniqueness comes from being among the first in the industry to complete the field audit of a UL 2723 ECOLOGO Certification for Mineral Exploration Companies.

The certification originated in 2012 from a non-profit Québec Mineral Exploration Association (AEMQ) project to evaluate and recognize responsible practices among mining exploration companies and service providers. Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent certification body, developed the ECOLOGO Certification based on AEMQ's initial work.

Certification entails the verification of 100 indicators encompassing practices on environment, health and safety, governance, community relations, First Nations relations, innovation, contribution to the local economy and more.

Jeffrey Vaillancourt, O3’s sustainable development specialist, said the process began in 2020 and normally would have taken several months if not for delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have to produce a lot of forms for the inspection; procedures, manuals and stuff like that. So for different companies, it can take a different (period) of time, because it depends on how you prepare for this. All the preparation will take a few months,” Vaillancourt said.

“After that, they have to do a field audit for (each aspect) to make sure we do what we say we do.”

Founded in 2019, O3 Mining (OIII-X) is an Osisko Group mining exploration company which owns 137,000 hectares in the Val-D’or region of Quebec across two sites – Marban and Alpha. It also owns two properties in Ontario near Matachewan and Timiskaming. 

UL ECOLOGO certification

The certification was launched in October 2019 in Quebec before being introduced to the rest of Canada and the world. Also launching was the UL 2724: ECOLOGO Certification Program for Suppliers of Mineral Exploration Industry.

According to UL’s website, certified companies can receive benefits including marketplace preference, green investment dollars and potential tax reductions.

AEMQ's blog states about 20 companies have started the ECOLOGO certification process; four are certified and others are being audited by UL.

Since its establishment in 1988, ECOLOGO has been recognized or referenced in more than 350 specifications and standards.

In 2010, the ECOLOGO certification program was acquired by UL Environment. Other areas of certification include paper and plastic, cleaning, building and construction, as well as office products.

O3 Mining and sustainability

In 2021, O3 Mining reports it produced 58.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) in Scope 1 emissions, 432.5 tCO2e in Scope 2 and 5,014.3 tCO2e in Scope 3. Its 2021 ESG report – the company’s first – noted the benefits of Quebec’s 99.6 per cent renewable power grid, stating the direct and indirect carbon cost for its operations for the year totalled $152,000.

As Vaillancourt explains, it’s not standard practice to rehabilitate a site after exploration, which is what sets the company apart.

“Normally, exploration companies are small. They find something, they sell into a bigger company and the bigger company will put in the mine. That's not our goal. We are an exploration company, but we want to become a producer. That's why we always apply best practice, rehabilitation of (the) site,” he said. 

“We always make inspections before the work, during the work and after the work to make sure that everything is legit.”

In Q4 of 2021 at O3 Mining sites, there were 427 inspections pre-tree clearing, 39 post-tree inspections, 72 during the drilling and 55 after.

Part of that rehabilitation includes reforestation. Last year, the company planted 8,953 trees which worked out to 45,000 square metres of reforestation, 15,000 square metres of re-vegetation and 60 kgs of seeds planted.

O3 Mining also pumps water away from drill sites and uses wooden mats on the worksite, providing a stable surface and protecting the ground from damage. The company collects drill mud in geotextile bags which are then taken to disposal areas, to protect wetlands and sensitive areas.

At the end of 2021 O3 Mining had 38 employees, three of whom worked in sustainable development.

O3 Mining's road to 2026

As Toronto-headquartered O3 Mining looks ahead to full gold production by 2026, it’s also looking at ways to improve its sustainable practices. 

While some mining operations already use electrified equipment and vehicles, Vaillancourt said challenges remain both in sourcing the equipment and due to the colder climate in Quebec. He said, however, O3 will be looking for ways to minimize its impact.

He also noted electrified equipment is easer to use underground – because it is smaller – rather than in an open pit.

“(Electric equipment) are used in Australia. It's not the same climate as us. So there's some challenge at those points. But we are looking what everybody around is doing and what is available, for sure,” Vaillancourt said. “We want to implant the best technology to reduce our greenhouse gas.

"So we're looking for innovation, the best technology always.”

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