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March 26, 2018

Cultivating responsible mining in Canada and abroad

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.

By Heidi Vella

In 2004 the Mining Association of Canada (mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>MAC ) launched the ‘Towards Sustainable Mining’ standard (mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM ) in Canada to imp rove the practices and the image of the Canadian mining sector.

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“At that time, we were concerned about the reputation of the industry,” CEO of mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>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 simp ly, “up its game”, says Gratton.

mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM provides a set of tools and indicators to imp rove 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, mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>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, comp rising 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 imp osed a moratorium on new mining contracts and a 2% tax increase.

Upon announcing the adoption of mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>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’.

Finland, Argentina and Botswana: making changes

Through mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM , mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>MAC member comp anies have to self-assess their facilities against a set of protocols or measuring sticks and independently grade their performance. The results are published by mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>MAC and every three years comp anies undergo external valuation by qualified verifiers who validate their results. mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>MAC claims to be the first industry association in the world to do this.

mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM ’s last report, covering 2016, noted several imp rovements, including 98% of comp anies reporting publicly on their engagement and dialogue activities, comp ared with 94% in 2015.

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

“We have shown significant imp rovements 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.”

mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>MAC ’s membership has grown by a third in the last five years, according to Gratton, so the initiative is now being followed by more Canadian miners that ever.

Before the Philippines, other countries’ mining associations adopted mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM when facing issues similar to those in Canada, and the standard is now used in Finland, Argentina and Botswana.

“The Finnish mining sector faced a lot of the problems we did at that time and so [the trade body] started looking around the world for something positive to build from and they discovered our programme,” says Gratton.

mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>MAC helps adoption by training the mining chamber and miners. In new jurisdictions that adopts mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM there is usually a mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>MAC member comp any operating that has experience with the initiative in Canada and made a point of encouraging the industry in those countries to consider adopting it.

“Hopefully this is a trend that will continue,” he adds, “I think, if the pressure starts to come from the customer base that will provide much more imp etus for it.”

And the pressure is coming. Gratton says one issue hitting the industry pretty hard now is that of manufacturers, such as Apple starting to demand assurances that the minerals used in their products are mined responsibly.

“In this context mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM is emerging as the standard that the global industry can turn to for assurance, which is raising its profile even further,” he adds. “The initiative creates reassurance that you are mining responsibility, that you are treating your workers well and that is the kind of assurance comp anies are looking for.”

Continuing challenges

However, mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM is only mandatory for mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>MAC members’ Canadian operations, as “we are not in a position to dictate what mining industries in other countries do”, says Gratton.

Canadian comp anies operating abroad have faced staunch criticism for extremely serious issues arising at their mine sites, including human rights abuses and environmental degradation. Several cases have even come to Canadian courts and the government says it is ready to appoint an ombudsman to help resolve issues as they arise.

mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM doesn’t address these issues, but Gratton says some members choose to apply mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM everywhere they operate, such as IAMGOLD, which operates in Suriname, Burkina Faso, Mali and Canada.

“IAMGOLD in Indaba is really seen as a tremendous leader and I think that is because they have taken mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM and applied in Burkina Faso, Suriname and not just in Canada,” says Gratton.

Furthermore, early last year, mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>MAC also made it mandatory for members to imp lement the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, which are the only human rights guidelines designed specifically for extractive sector comp anies.

Starting this year, through the mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM report, member comp anies will be reporting on how they will adhere to those principles.

“This is not just a Canadian commitment, but most [members] are subscribed to the principles anyway, so it wasn’t a stretch to make this commitment,” says Gratton.

“It is not a site level initiative as such, but more about using risk-based plans if you are operating in an area with high risk and you are using security personnel; for examp le, you will need to take steps to train these personnel in human rights and how to appropriately use force.”

This is to try and address issues that have arisen with security personnel used at mine sites outside Canada, including accusations of excessive force, rape and murder.

More work to be done

Gratton says the initiative has some work to do in new areas mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>MAC has identified, such as conservation.

“It is a relatively new concept and some comp anies have environmental policy and systems in place specifically addressing biodiversity, but still, if you look at our results you will see we have imp roved in this area also,” says Gratton.

Adding that mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=MAC SA” target=”_blank”>MAC is committed to help the sector learn from one another to continually imp rove.

“I think mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM has helped the Canadian mining industry start to talk about themselves I have seen a huge change in how the industry is willing to open up and share what they are doing.”

Undoubtedly, mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM has driven positive change in the Canadian mining, though for some it shouldn’t take the place of government regulation.

mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM is a good management tool, it’s good for comp anies that want to imp lement good practises and is a useful framework for monitoring and measuring progress towards that,” says Jamie Kneen, communications and outreach coordinator, at Mining Watch Canada, a Canadian-based NGO.

“It is most useful, however, in-conjunction with a strong regulatory framework so there are actual legal requirements. When we say mp anies/listing/search/?q[]=TSM BV” target=”_blank”>TSM is being adopted it is being adopted by industry but not by governments. Both are necessary.”

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