FEATURE: Mine Magazine – Cultivating responsible mining in Canada and abroad

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The Mining Association of Canada’s ‘Towards Sustainable Mining’ standard, which requires members to annually assess their performance in several key areas, has now been adopted in four different countries – most recently the Philippines. Heidi Vella finds out how the initiative is helping raise standards at mines both in Canada and abroad.

In 2004 the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) launched the ‘Towards Sustainable Mining’ standard (TSM) in Canada to improve the practices and the image of the Canadian mining sector.

“At that time, we were concerned about the reputation of the industry,” CEO of MAC, Pierre Gratton explains. “We were facing growing NGO opposition towards mining in Canada and stronger regulatory oversight, and the industry felt itself that it wasn’t performing as well as it should be.”

The industry needed to, quite simply, “up its game”, says Gratton.

TSM provides a set of tools and indicators to improve performance in three key areas: community engagement, the environment and health and safety, and to ultimately increase accountability, transparency, credibility and performance of its members.

Furthermore, MAC hoped it would help the industry better connect with stakeholders, instead of taking an out of sight, out of mind approach. To help them do this it created a national advisory panel, comprising various groups, including indigenous representatives, intended to challenge the industry.

In December, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) became the latest mining association, and the first in South East Asia, to adopt the standard.

The move is likely be in response to similar ongoing challenges faced by miners in the Philippines.

President Rodrigo Duterte, elected in 2013, has been highly critical of the industry, accusing miners of ‘considerably neglecting’ their duty to protect the environment. His administration has also imposed a moratorium on new mining contracts and a 2% tax increase.

Upon announcing the adoption of TSM, COMP chairman, Gerard H Brimo, said mineral development could be done responsibly and he hoped the standard would help members ‘institutionalise practices that secure these contributions for the long term’.

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Through TSM, MAC member companies have to self-assess their facilities against a set of protocols or measuring sticks and independently grade their performance. The results are published by MAC and every three years companies undergo external valuation by qualified verifiers who validate their results. MAC claims to be the first industry association in the world to do this.

TSM’s last report, covering 2016, noted several improvements, including 98% of companies reporting publicly on their engagement and dialogue activities, compared with 94% in 2015.

Seventy-two percent of companies reported publicly on biodiversity conservation activities and performance, compared with 66% in 2015, and 56% have established and met energy and greenhouse gas emissions performance targets, compared with 44% in 2015.

“We have shown significant improvements in our practises and I think it has also helped reduce the friction that has existed,” says Gratton. “It is now rare that mines face opposition in Canada, and when it does happen, it tends to be against projects that are by their very nature more sensitive.”

Read the full feature here