Stewardship and Biodiversity: Paying It Forward

Lehigh Hanson Canada’s (LHC) commitment to the land in its care doesn’t end with the closure of a mine or a plant. LHC recognizes its long-term responsibility to give the land back to nature and to the local communities.

Stewardship involves a great deal of planning, consultation and scientific understanding of how best to reclaim a landscape. One of the outcomes of learning how to bring wildlife back to industrial landscapes has been a contribution to the biodiversity of local areas.

The Quarry Life Award

Lehigh Hanson Canada (LHC) supports innovation in the enhancement of biodiversity during and after operation of its quarries and aggregate pits.

These accomplishments are recognized through LHC's participation in the HeidelbergCement Group's Quarry Life Award program. The international program recognizes projects aimed at raising knowledge of the biological value of mining sites and contributions to the preservation of biodiversity, and awards participating university research projects with various monetary prizes of up to $40,000.

In 2014, LHC's Sechelt mine hosted the 1st place and 3rd place research projects in North America which designed a geo-ecology and educational nature trail, and determined above and below ground biodiversity at the site.

The Sechelt Biosolids Program

Lehigh Materials in Sechelt, BC operates one of the largest aggregate mines in North America. In 1997 a reclamation program began to use organic and inorganic material, mainly municipal biosolids, to improve the fertility of the reclaimed land. The plan was to return mine land to the Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) and other land stewards in a more productive state than in the past.

When active mining ends, stockpiled soil is used to cover the mined out areas. This soil, known as overburden, is normally very low in organic matter. Additional fertility needs to be added. Each year since 1997, biosolids from three local sources have been applied to designated reclamation areas at the Sechelt mine. After spreading biosolids, we see with grass mix and plant hybrid poplars. Tree planting is carried out by SIB trainees and workers, giving valuable skills in plantation forestry to local First Nations.

Sechelt South Plateau Plantation

The former sedimentation pond at Lehigh – Sechelt before biosolids use in reclamation (2004), shortly after planting, and a recent image of the same area (2009). The aggregate wash fines now support a rapidly growing stand of hybrid poplar.

In just 15 years, Sechelt has been transformed from an industrial landscape to a young woodland of poplars. In time, the poplars will encourage a range of species to develop around them. Th SIB First Nations are supporting the reclamation, learning about forestry as they go.

Kinokamau Lake Conservation with Ducks Unlimited

In 2001, Lehigh Cement and Ducks Unlimited agreed to a conservation easement at Kinokamau Lake which protects the ecologically significant wetland and surrounding lands in perpetuity. The City of Edmonton had identified the area as potentially being one of the most significant breeding habitats in the city for waterfowl. Lehigh Cement helped fund independent watershed studies which also identified over 100 bird species using the lake and wetlands. The surrounding area was also home to several mammals, large and small.

Lehigh Cement had planned to secure access to more clay in the quarry. Instead, once the ecological value of the lake was identified, Lehigh Cement began working with Ducks Unlimited to create an agreement to ensure that this important ecosystem would not be compromised by us or by any other user of the land.

Kinokamau Lake Project

McLeod River Habitat Restoration Project at Cadomin

The McLeod River Restoration Project improved natural fish habitat in four side channels of the McLeod River. Three sites are upstream of Cadomin and the fourth is downstream. This project essentially reversed past actions to help maintain aquatic diversity and protect sensitive habitat. It also conserves Alberta’s freshwater resources.

The enhancement work cleared side channels to maintain continuous flow, added boulders and vegetation to increase in-stream cover in summer, and created a pond to enhance over-wintering habitat. These sites were selected to optimize fisheries habitat, while minimizing risk of future flood damage, and avoiding adverse impacts to local users and existing wildlife.

Falcon Habitat at Lehigh Cement Edmonton Plant

Lehigh Cement (Edmonton) has had a breeding pair of Peregrine Falcons at the top of our clinker silo since 1992. As soon as the falcons were identified as an Endangered Species, Lehigh Cement recognized the significance of having the birds on-site and our responsibility to provide a suitable habitat for their return.

Peregrine Falcons

Lehigh Cement worked with Alberta Fish & Wildlife officers to design a shelter for the pair and determine the best location for their home. A shelter box was placed on the east cement silos overlooking the rail tracks.

The falcons have raised successful broods every year. In addition to their own offspring, the falcons accepted adopted chicks raised through the falcon rehabilitation program in Alberta, and at times had as many as six chicks to raise in a season. As a result, the breeding pair was very successful in contributing to the return of the peregrine falcon across Alberta.