Leaders in Environmental Innovation

A&M Remediation
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Mining practices and safety standards have come a long way, and while companies have adopted environmental and social guidelines (ESG) to mitigate serious risks to people and the environment, there is still work to be done to achieve the level of progress so sorely needed in the industry. That’s where A&M Remediation comes in.

A&M Remediation is a waste management and commercial cleaning partner for industrial clients, and goes a step further to align its people and processes with its operating values of good environmental stewardship and trust-based relationships.

From Manager of Staff Development and Support, Jake Geale’s, perspective, “You can operate with values, and you can still be successful with values; it doesn’t have to be just the financials. And it’s not two sides of a coin: you can have both the values and the good business sense as well.”

No wasted opportunity
As an industrial waste management specialist, the team at A&M offers consultative services and support to optimize its clients’ operations in accordance with standards, regulations, and overall best practices. This is an offering that not only helps clients do the right thing; it is also good for their bottom lines.

With interest rates as high as they are, there is no question that budgets have tightened across industries and sectors, and this is especially true of the mining sector, where millions of dollars may be leveraged. There has never been a better time to take advantage of operational efficiencies.

“We’re constantly finding ways to explain the cost savings, because if we look at what our clients are looking at—which is dollars and cents because it’s a shareholder-driven business—markets are always asking for savings and more value for the dollar. So, how do we convey the message that our service does this while at the same time meeting their ESG guidelines?” President and Founder, Paul Thususka, explains.

Building trust
A&M Remediation is deeply committed to improving environmental, social, and economic outcomes for its clients through proven waste diversion and mitigation tactics, a values-based culture, and more meaningful engagement with First Nations in line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action.

Failure to consult with First Nations is a major issue that confronts the company’s clients and must be taken seriously. Mining and development companies have a unique opportunity before them to build trust and uphold the TRC’s Calls to Action, demonstrating good faith and good intentions through their actions, which A&M can facilitate.

“For our clients, this is the way: by demonstrating your intention for environmental stewardship and demonstrating your intention to leave [the environment] clean and not damaged—that’s going to build trust. It’s a massive piece of trust right off the top,” says Thususka.

Given the history of distrust, both sides need to come to the table to ensure that traditional lands are protected and First Nations’ interests are considered. A&M hopes that its approach to consultation will help to plant the seeds of change and empower positive progress and self-determination for the long term.

Acknowledging the reality of the situation, Thususka notes, “We’re planting a tree that we may never see the fruit from. I’m never going to see the long-term benefits of these decisions 10, 20 years from now. My kids will see them, and the industry will see them.” But he makes it clear that that’s enough to keep A&M motivated for change.

New path forward
By delivering services that directly align with its values, A&M promotes safe, profitable, and environmentally sound operations while saving its clients time and money. To date, A&M has saved thousands of hours per year in operational efficiencies for its clients, which amounts to more than a million dollars in savings annually while reducing landfill waste volume by 94 percent on average. For remote operations, this is invaluable.

According to Thususka, “What we do is, when inputs come in, we process those and create outputs that go to recycling, composting, landfill, reuse, or another purpose. If we can reduce the number of inputs coming in, we can reduce the outputs, so we’re consulting on some of that with our clients. Organic composting has become a big part of reducing costs and impact for some of the remote operations.”

He adds, “If you have road access two months of the year, how are you getting your waste out? You can’t store organics and you can’t bury it. Even with some of the permitting for landfills, they’re not able to do that.”

While major waste streams are being managed in accordance with regulatory requirements to ensure that the people, lands, and waterways are protected, there are smaller quantities of hazardous waste that are being overlooked in some day-to-day operations, and A&M has a proven program to tidy up these loose ends. The company has developed a fully vetted process that is traceable for auditing purposes. This system of accountability has supported its clients in achieving environmental certifications such as ISO 14001, which has very rigid standards.

Operations Manager Chris Hendsbee notes, “The client directed the auditors to our waste management programs at a couple of the mines underground and it was great for us because it was a showcase of what we were doing. In everything that the auditors saw on the paperwork side and in practice, the client was achieving the ISO 14001 standard, so that was big for us and them.”

People first
People, of course, are a major component of service delivery and A&M Remediation seeks employees who will match the energy and culture of the company, upholding the values it holds dear. At a time when securing talent is a challenge, A&M is committed to developing its own, creating an inclusive and open environment where everyone can excel, including those who have been historically excluded from the industry, such as women and people of colour.

It’s no secret that the mining industry and the underground are not the most welcoming of environments, particularly for women, as the sites are designed for male workers and usually have limited accommodation, but having a diverse team calls for a more diverse approach to staff provisions, including appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and change room facilities.

“We’re focusing more and more on our values, and we’re standing by those values more strongly with our clients. ‘This is the way it is. This is the way the work is going to go.’ Not that we’re putting ultimatums out but we’re choosing things to do that align with our values more and more every day,” says Thususka.

A unique aspect of A&M Remediation’s success is its calm acceptance of staff turnover given the time and effort that goes into its training and development program; its leadership team understands it as confirmation that the company is seen as a quality stepping stone to bigger opportunities.

For Geale, “We know that the training we do is part of our cost of doing business, and we’re prepared to do that. But being able to provide excellent service and have a positive working environment is more important to us,” he says.

“We know that a lot of people want to get into the mining side rather than the service side of things. We can help you get into the mining industry. We can help you gain some experience, some safety knowledge, some skills, and then we would be happy to provide you with a reference or to make an introduction to have you potentially work elsewhere. While that sounds a little bit backwards, embracing the turnover, I think it’s been really helpful for us because I am far happier to have an excellent staff member for a year than a mediocre one for five.”

A&M has designed its training program to focus on nurturing new onboards, providing them with a support system and sounding board during their transition underground. On any given day, you can find the leadership team at A&M alongside its employees underground doing the same jobs because no one is above the work being done—and safety is above everything.

“We stay on top of coming regulation and we try to make sure our people are comfortable and confident. I don’t want anybody going underground without the confidence that they can be on their own down there,” says Daryl Bransfield, Manager of Health and Safety Programs and Training.

“I’ll spend extra days down there making sure they understand their duties, and we have excellent people who guide them on the smaller day-to-day stuff, so we’re constantly reaching out to our workers to make sure their comfort levels match our expectations of them. We get a lot of good feedback on that,” he says.

“I talk to people who have moved on to other companies and I get feedback from them saying, ‘You know, you guys do it differently,’ and I always appreciate that. It’s a warm feeling and I love hearing from people who have moved on.”

This inherent understanding that a fulfilled employee will bring greater value to the company they work for is a testament to A&M’s ability to be an employer of choice, as well as an industrial partner of choice. By putting people and the environment first, mining operations and industrial sites can do better while being better, and A&M can help.

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