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THE DRIFT 2020: Environment has a friend in Canadian Shield Consultants Agency

Small environmental engineering firm makes big impact on natural world
Canadian Shield Consultants Agency provides a range of environmental engineering services, including self-contained wastewater treatment systems, soil sampling, environmental impact assessments, and more. (Supplied photo/Canadian Shield Consultants Agency)

In an era when climate change and the environment are becoming more pressing issues, Gerry Dignard believes the services supplied by his company have never been more needed.

Based in the small community of St. Charles, about an hour southeast of Sudbury, Canadian Shield Consultants Agency provides turnkey environmental engineering services to commercial, industrial and residential clients.

“We provide a service of wastewater treatment systems to companies that want to grow, mines that are opening, work camps, generation station dams, and temporary systems like setting up mines,” explained Dignard, who launched Canadian Shield in 1996 following a 32-year career with Agriculture Canada.

Canadian Shield engineers, designs, manufactures, installs and maintains the self-contained systems, which are used primarily in remote areas inaccessible by road.

Dignard said his is the only firm in Northern Ontario with a pre-approved system that can be set up and used during a project’s permitting process with the Ministry of the Environment, which can take up to a year until completion.

“Exploration companies exploring for gold mines would be able to start immediately rather than wait for a year,” Dignard said.

“So when you have gold at an all-time high of so many dollars per ounce, if you get a jump on producing a million ounces of gold over the period of one year that you’re waiting for permanent permitting, then you’ve already got a jump on your business.”

The firm can treat wastewater before being released back into the environment, set up drinking water systems, and provide full environmental engineering services, including environmental impact assessments, well monitoring, soil sampling, and more.

Past mining clients have included Cliffs Environmental, Lake Shore Gold, Gold Canyon Resources, KGHM, Metalex Ventures, Detour Gold and Goldcorp.

More recently, Canadian Shield was contracted to work on IAMGOLD’s Côté Gold development project near Gogama, about 130 kilometres southwest of Timmins.

The $1-billion project, which is on hold pending improved market conditions, is expected to require 1,200 people during the construction phase and will permanently employ roughly 600 people.

“We’ve installed a work camp wastewater system to help 250, we’re working on another one for 100, and then hopefully we’ll be involved with their permanent work camp that’s going to have a total workforce of 600 people,” Dignard said.

“That’s one of the largest projects in the mining sector that we will be tackling to date in our work history.”

Six years ago, the firm added a rapid response spill cleanup division to the company, complete with aviation service that allows the team to respond quickly when a spill of toxic material occurs. Canadian Shield also works with companies to put in place cleanup plans so they’re prepared in advance of an emergency.

Always with an eye on diversification, Canadian Shield has extended its reach beyond industry to tourism and municipalities, the latter of which finds the self-contained systems particularly beneficial in the wake of cuts to infrastructure funding, limiting their growth.

“We’re doing consultation for projects for development of municipalities that want to build subdivisions but don’t have the money or the infrastructure to have lagoons or wastewater treatment plants developed,” Dignard said.

“So we have a solution for them to grow in sequence, or in the size that they can until they have the funding and the permitting to be able to do what they want to do.”

Environmental issues have always been important to Dignard, who founded Canadian Shield in response to changes to the Environmental Protection Act. After wastewater regulations were transferred to the Ontario Building Code, Dignard sensed a need for a service that helped the public navigate the complex, new regulatory framework.

He’s even teamed up with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine on research projects examining the potential of turning blue-green algae into fuel and evaluating the impact of leachate from old abandoned mines on the environment.

Dignard is also frequently a guest speaker at seminars, speaking about environmental stewardship and climate change, and offering input on how businesses can improve their operations and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

“There are always new ways to do things in wastewater treatment… and it’s not necessarily more expensive for the end user,” he said. “It’s saving money and protecting the environment, so I think that’s the thing of the future: looking for new avenues to correct old problems.”

The Drift magazine features profiles on the people and companies making important contributions to the Northern Ontario mining service and supply sector. It is published annually and distributed at the Northern Ontario Mining Showcase during the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in Toronto.