OMA member profile: Blue Heron — providing practical environmental solutions for mining sector

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

When Linda Byron-Fortin started Blue Heron Solutions for Environmental Management from her Timmins basement in 2004, she may not have envisioned it growing into the operation it is today with a payroll of 17 occupying a 7,000 square foot facility. 

From her Timmins headquarters, she can list among her mining clients De Beers Canada, Xstrata Nickel, Xstrata Copper, Goldcorp, Lakeshore, Northgate, Kirkland Lake Gold, St. Andrew Goldfields and a range of junior exploration and development companies.  Blue Heron’s spectrum of environmental services encompass planning and compliance, education and eco-retailing.

“I like having an ability to help people and I have an interest in management systems,” said Ms. Byron-Fortin.  “Most of my staff are ex-environmental coordinators from the resource sector who take an operational perspective on environmental permitting and compliance programs.”

“We tend to look at things from the bottom up – from the operational end – and not produce pie in the sky ideal reports,” added Ms. Byron-Fortin.  “At times, Blue Heron acts as contract safety, health and environmental coordinators and technicians, which is different from traditional consulting.”

Much of the work undertaken by Blue Heron involves obtaining the permitting for greenfields operations, of which there are many in Timmins at this time, the permitting for brownfields operations at old mine sites, baseline studies involving soil and ground water sampling and the development of closure plans. The company is also involved in providing environmental compliance audits and environmental management systems audits.

Blue Heron is a significant teacher in the area of environmental education and awareness. It trains environmental coordinators through one-on-one workshops and through environmental coordinator courses for 15 to 20 people.  In addition, it holds regular four-day environmental technician courses for 15 to 20 people at a time. 

 There are winter and summer courses, which split the time between classroom instruction and field work such as collecting samples, proper use and care of monitoring equipment and conducting environmental inspections at minesites.  It has also offered three-day courses on environmental compliance.      

Blue Heron has acted as environmental consultant for First Nations and it has trained First Nation residents in the skills needed to be environmental technicians and coordinators at mining and exploration companies.  It has also found a niche as an environmental retailer. 

From the back of its shop, Blue Heron sells sediment control, spills prevention and contingency response supplies.  The company also provides environmental emergency response and preparation training, which supplements the supply of these products.

In Timmins, Blue Heron runs environmental summer camps for 11 to 14 year olds.  “Earth Keepers Day Camp is a way we can show we are part of the community,” said Ms. Byron-Fortin.  “The programs are developed and operated by Blue Heron staff and we charge the going rate for day camps in the area.  This is the second year, we have run the camps and we average about eight to 10 children per group.”

Ms. Byron-Fortin grew up in the forestry community of Iroquois Falls and studied wildlife biology at Laurentian University in Sudbury.  “I wanted to do moose census counts and study wildlife in Northern Ontario but there were no jobs in this field when I graduated,” she said.  A summer stint with the Ministry of Environment in Timmins, however, provided a window on mining.

“I had never set foot on a mine until I stepped on site for an interview at St. Andrew Goldfields,” she said.  This led to a stint at the Kidd Creek metallurgical and mine sites in Timmins and work as an environmental coordinator involved in environmental compliance and development and implementation of an ISO 14001 certified management system before starting Blue Heron.

Blue Heron is an active member of the OMA and Ms. Byron-Fortin has been a volunteer, as a core member of the OMA Environment Committee for more than 15 years.  More information on the company can be found at www.blueheronenv.com.  This article is the twelfth in a series of profiles of OMA member companies and their contributions to the vitality of Ontario’s society and economy.

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