Robert Livermore, Mining Director,
CIVIL & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANTS (CEC)
“Our water resources and civil practices have been performing well over the last few years.”
Can you give us an overview of Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. (CEC) and the company’s work within the mining sector?
CEC was founded in 1989 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with one of its focuses being on the mining industry in that region. CEC works in the coal, aggregates, and hard rock mining industry. As our name states, we do both civil and environmental engineering depending on the office location. Some of our services include environmental permitting, stream restoration, surveying, civil design, and air quality permitting/testing.
What are some key projects CEC has been involved with in Arizona?
We completed an Aquifer Protection Permit for a gold mine in the Prescott region in 2021. Within the patented property footprint, there was an old abandoned mine contaminating the local stream. To solve this, CEC designed and built a passive wetlands remediation system, and put metal adsorbing plants in each of the five ponds that can soak up minerals out of the water. We are also currently designing a two-mile stormwater channel to repair damage done by a flash flood in a region previously affected by a fire that resulted in a debris flow flood. We completed the due diligence for Ivanhoe Electric, which recently moved into Arizona and is looking at developing a large project near Casa Grande. This project is going to be interesting because Ivanhoe Electric will likely use in-situ copper recover (ISCR) mining techniques - one of the new technologies being used in Arizona and was pioneered by the Florence Copper project.
What services have been driving CEC’s growth in recent years, especially in Arizona?
Our water resources and civil practices have been performing well over the last few years. In 2021, we saw 35% growth in our aggregates business. Another interesting development we have noticed this year, mainly due to the energy crisis, is a resurgence in demand for our coal-related services.
Can you share some insight into the mine permitting process in Arizona?
In the mining industry, there are two permitting avenues. The most difficult one is if you are trying to develop a mine on state or federal lands. The stringent water regulations are crucial to take into consideration in Arizona. If you are processing minerals, you must apply for an Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) to ensure your operation does not affect groundwater. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is updating the Best Available Control Technology manual for the mining industry that helps set established design guidelines for engineering companies. You need to show that you can design/operate within these guidelines, and are not impacting surface or groundwater, for the permitting process to be easier.
What key trends do you see shaping water management in Arizona´s mining industry?
The mining industry has been very active in terms of water management. Water is a very critical resource in a lot of mining operations and most of them recycle up to 80% or more. The big issue is around the impact of water usage on surrounding communities that are experiencing shortages. Mining operations try to take advantage of stormwater storage, water-use efficiency measures, water recycling, and the use of dry stack tailings.
How does CEC manage to stand out from other consultancy firms?
Our clients and our people are the core of CEC. We hire high-calibre technical people and employ quality processes to assure accuracy in our technical deliverables. It is hard to compete with large international firms, but we are able to provide niche or smaller design projects that larger firms cannot get to. An example is a raffinate pond we just pre-designed for Carlota’s Pinto Valley mine. CEC is very competitive in the US$100,000-200,000 project range.
What potential does Arizona’s mining industry hold for CEC?
The industry has been talking about rare earths, and there are a couple of large deposits in Arizona that will likely be developed. We will continue to see major finds in copper thanks to the geology of Arizona and the abundant copper reserves there. This comes at a very necessary time given the push towards electrification and the ongoing energy transition. However, the mining industry will continue dealing with supply chain issues and shipping/supply chain problems and will continue looking for ways to achieve cost efficiency while minimizing environmental or social impacts.