Formerly Alexco Environmental Group (AEG) and Contango Strategies
You need to place your own oxygen mask first, before you can help others

Mitch Strom, Chief People Officer, Ensero Solutions

If you are a business or Human Resources leader, you have probably spent the last few weeks or months discussing the impacts of COVID-19 and thinking about business continuity and getting contingency plans in place. Like me, you are thinking about the people who are the heart and soul of the company and how to ensure that the business and employees can travel safely through this COVID-19 storm. This is not an easy task. It is stressful, emotional, and takes a toll on your mind and body. You need to be there for them so that we can all emerge from this health and financial crisis. To do that, you need to make sure you are putting your best self forward. You have to make sure you place your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others put on their mask.

We need to take care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally. We need to have someone to talk to. We need to be honest with ourselves.

Take care of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally.

As simple as it sounds, your body and mind should be in the best possible place. This means getting a good night’s sleep, feeding your body the nutrients it needs and taking some time to laugh. Try and keep a standard routine before you go to bed. Resist the temptation to open up your laptop and work all night. Go for a walk or run. Stretch. Plan your meals for the entire week so that you don’t have to call for takeout. Read some dad jokes. Watch some old re-runs of Home Improvement. Take a bath. Take 10 minutes and just clear your mind in silence. Do whatever it is that makes you smile and laugh.

Have someone to talk to.

Great leaders listen to their teams and help them through their toughest struggles and help them succeed. It is equally important that great leaders also have someone to talk to. While our families (and most often our partners) can be great sounding boards, it can also add a lot of extra stress to our home lives which are already stressful. Talk with a mentor. Lean on your colleagues. Video chat with an old friend. Make a commitment with your team to listen to each other.

Most Importantly, Be honest with yourself.

“I’m doing great”. “I feel fine.” “Haven’t been better.” How many times have you said these things because you are putting on your best face for your team or co-workers? While we all understand that how we act and what we say impacts others, it is important to not lie to yourself. Be honest and know when you need to ask for help. Leverage each team member’s strengths. Know your limits. Don’t feel ashamed to talk with a professional.

Take care of yourself first, so you can take care of others. Be humble and be kind.

We will persevere. 

Working Together to De-Risk Risk Mine Water Treatment

Jim Harrington, Chief Executive Officer, Ensero Solutions

Disruptions, like those we are experiencing today, can lead to significant leaps forward in technology and help achieve innovative environmental solutions. In a globally connected world, supply chain disruptions and travel challenges are happening and can lead us to recognize potential risks that we didn’t think possible. This has reinforced in my mind the need to view mining water treatment from the perspective of: How can we use innovation to improve the reliability of our treatment systems and optimize the requirements for hands-on site activities to protect the environment?

For example, a remote site we have worked at for over a decade previously relied on frequent lime delivery to neutralize metals in the water, mixing lime slurry multiple times per week, and daily operator checks to ensure that the mixing systems continued to function effectively. Even after upsizing the slurry tank so we could deliver lime less frequently and installing remote internet-based automated alarms and telemetry to allow an operator to virtually “visit” the site, the system remained vulnerable to power interruptions and mechanical failures, and ultimately the site compliance relied on an operator.

Supported by our partners, we implemented an innovative in situ treatment within the flooded mine workings (known as a “mine pool”). Said simply, we used food sources (alcohol and molasses) to grow and feed microbes that were naturally present in the mine pool. These microbes convert dissolved metals back into their solid mineral forms. After only a few feedings of the native microbes in the first year, the water flows clean from the mine to the environment.

The benefits of using microbes to clean the mine from the inside and creating a mine full of clean water are enormous. We no longer rely on having an operator visit the site to ensure a mechanical system is operational. Daily or weekly chemical deliveries are replaced by once every few years feeding of the microbes, and the microbes are happy to keep the water clean for years between feeding.

From a bottom-line perspective, the site is de-risked on many levels including ones we forgot were important: we now don’t have to get there every day to know that the environment is protected. And the cost to accomplish this protection is a fraction of keeping the lime deliveries going.

Sometimes adding more engineering controls and spending more capital doesn’t accomplish what environmental innovation can achieve. Constraints and challenges can lead to science-based innovation which results in the protection of our people and the environment.

This is one of the things that keeps me getting up in the morning: Creating insightful environmental strategies and delivering enduring solutions that fundamentally transform how we view environmental problems and solutions. In the coming weeks and years, I know that together we will continue to innovate using natural processes to make environmental protection more reliable.