Engineering Earth’s Development, Preserving Earth’s Integrity” is a powerful statement that takes a lot of skill and confidence to live up to but for Golder Associates, those few words have been the company’s motto and business philosophy since it started working with the mining industry almost 55 years ago.
When Hugh Golder, along with Vic Milligan, Larry Soderman, and John Seychuk founded the company in Toronto in 1960, their plan was to start with just a few friends with the same vision and drive to ‘go it alone’ and work for themselves.
All of the partners had professional experience working for other consulting firms, but like many young engineers of that era, they were determined to venture out on their own by going after business where their skills and interests lead them. And, to where they had a freer hand in applying their soil mechanics and ground engineering talents.
Now more than half a century later, Golder Associates’ talents are being applied around the world more than ever as the company has grown from a small Bloor-Street walk-up in 1960 to an internationally known organization with 180 offices and more than 8,000 employees.
Another of its slogans: “Need Global Mining Solutions? Just ask Golder.” pretty much says it all.
From Africa to Australia, throughout Europe and Asia, to North and South America, the company has expanded from its grass-roots rock and ground-engineering services to everything ranging from integrated design, consulting and construction solutions to the social, environmental, and regulatory processes mining companies are facing on an increasingly important and frequent basis.
Because of the company’s early focus on soil mechanics and ground engineering, the move to rock mechanics and groundwater was a natural transition and the broader field of hydrogeology became an important part of the company’s services, particularly in contaminated soil and groundwater.
Hydrology and hydraulic engineering, bio-sciences plus Geographic Information Systems (GIS), are also a part of what Golder Associates does but it’s still its full range of ‘mining’ services that have made the company so popular around the world.
Kevin Beauchamp, Canadian Mining Leader, Golder Associates, says: “Golder has a long history of consulting to operating mines. Along with our international assignments, we have ongoing projects at most mines in Canada. Combining operational consulting with a focus on front-end mining studies is a key for us.”
Globally, front-end studies have included trekking through the jungles in Brazil, Costa Rica, Columbia, up to the foot of the Himalayas in Tibet to obtain geochemistry and geotechnical samples. Also, not to mention work in the high Andes, Pampas of South America and the outback of Australia to design and develop some of the largest tailings storage facilities in the world, and to contribute to pre-feasibility and feasibility with geotechnical, environmental and social support.
Beauchamp added: “Unlike most consulting firms, Golder uses an integrated approach that results in better project outcomes. Early inclusion of environmental, social and permitting aspects results in better concepts and trade off studies.
“Operational consulting typically involves key technical expertise that helps mining companies realize efficiency through operating improvements or by allowing the mining company to maintain a streamlined workforce and contract out support from Golder in specific technical areas.”
As mining companies become more streamlined, they in-turn expect more in the solutions provided by companies like Golder Associates. “In response, Golder has evolved into a global design and construction service provider for mining clients.”
Brian Daniels, Construction Contracts Manager for Golder Associates in Mississauga, says: “Golder continues to provide integrated design and construction services to our clients in all aspects of the mine life-cycle. It is our goal to be a long-term partner with our clients from the first background study to final closure.”
Backed by more than 50 years of experience, Golder has completed large-scale design and construction operations all over the globe.
One of the company’s projects includes the on-going construction of the Antamina tailings dam in Peru. This is one of the largest tailings dam in the world and Golder has been involved in initial evaluation, design, construction and on-going site operational management since 1998. To this day Golder continues to monitor and direct construction activities. Additional projects include paste backfill plants in Tanzania and Portugal and pipeline design and construction in Nevada.
When asked about remediating or closing former mine sites, Daniels says: “Yes we can.” In particular, he mentioned the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s abandoned Deloro Mine, one of his proudest recent works.
Daniels explained that operating as a former gold mine, the Deloro site was closed in 1961 after nearly 47 years of operation. Cobalt and uranium ore were also refined at the site. The mine and arsenic treatment plant were situated on an 8-ha property west of the Moira River near Peterborough, Ontario.
Refining slag, mine tailings, calcium arsenate, and arsenical pesticides were present on the site along with approximately 90,000 tonnes of ferric hydroxide (red mud) that was pumped as waste slurry from the hydrometallurgical plant from 1914 to 1961 to a tailings area east of the river.
To remediate the property, Daniels said that Golder Associates, working as the General Contractor, completed two major phases of the cleanup operations, including the engineered clay caps and groundwater collection systems in the tailings area.
Deloro Project Engineer Robert Putzlocher of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change says “Golder worked collaboratively with the Ministry to find efficiencies and add value while at the same time completing their projects on time and within budget.”
More than 29,000 man-hours of work without a lost-time incident were completed at the Deloro Mine project and Daniels was proud to say that this type of performance is typical of Golder projects of this nature around the world. “The Health and Safety of our people and all site personnel during these intricate operations is our first priority and something we take very seriously.”
Golder also serves clients by working in some of the most politically and socially troubled areas of the world, including Russia, India, Middle Asia and Central Africa. As part of Golder’s commitment to sustainable development, Golder Associates’ employees formed the Golder Trust for Orphans in 2003 (www.goldertrust.org) to provide support to children and families in Africa who have been orphaned or displaced by the AIDS pandemic.
The Trust, which to date has received over (U.S.) $3 million in donations from Golder staff and operating companies, provides one-time donations and investment funding for capital projects to organizations based in, and working with, local communities to address specific needs.
“It is heartbreaking at times travelling to these locations, and this is one of the actions that makes Golder not just a great place for our clients, but a great place to work,” says Ken DeVos, a geochemist and seasoned world traveler who has been with the company for more than 20 years.
From exploration of new mining opportunities in distant places like Africa and Vietnam, to remediating closed mines in North America, Golder Associates has come a long way from those early days on Bloor Street in the 1960s and by all indications, will continue to be a global leader in mining.