The mining industry is growing in British Columbia. B.C. mines and smelters are making major investments in modernization, four new mines are in construction, several more are in advanced permitting and mineral exploration spending is rising.
Billions of new investment dollars are flowing into B.C., creating wealth for the province and thousands of jobs and business opportunities for British Columbians.
As the mining sector embarks on a period of growth not seen in a generation, it is important to find new and better ways to extract the minerals that are critical to a clean and green economy.
Over the last couple of decades, the mining industry in B.C. has undergone dramatic changes in the way it approaches sustainability, environmental obligations and relationships with its communities-of-interest.
Today, mining is the safest heavy industry in the province, a leading employer and contractor of First Nations and, through B.C.’s internationally recognized Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mining, is continuously improving environmental management and reclamation practices.
But there is more we can and should do.
It is for this reason that the Mining Association of B.C. is implementing the Towards Sustainable Mining initiative (TSM) — the first provincial mining association in Canada to do so.
Developed by the Mining Association of Canada, TSM encourages industry to develop new best practices and demonstrate continuous improvement in a number of critical fields of sustainable management including tailings management, aboriginal and community relations, safety and health, energy and greenhouse gas management and biodiversity. TSM is based on a set of guiding principles supported by performance indicators — standards against which a mine’s performance is evaluated.
Reporting on the performance indicators is done at the facility level to allow the public to track the performance of individual mines and smelters.
Reporting and performance are also verified by independent third parties, providing confidence in the reported results.
One of the most important and innovative aspects of TSM comes from the input and guidance provided by a Communities-of-Interest Advisory Panel.
This panel includes representatives from labour, aboriginal organizations and communities, NGOs, mining communities and the ethical investment sector.
Its mandate is to help the mining industry and communities-of-interest improve the industry’s performance, to foster dialogue and to help shape TSM goals.
TSM is not new to B.C. It is employed at several mines that are members of the Mining Association of Canada, such as Teck Resources’ operations at Highland Valley Copper, in the Elk Valley and at Trail, as well as Breakwater Resources’ Myra Falls Operation on Vancouver Island.
However, many of the B.C. mines are not members of MAC and bringing TSM to the Mining Association of B.C. will allow all of our province’s active mines to benefit from this initiative.
TSM is a natural next step as the industry continues its efforts to mine responsibly and provide the metals and minerals that are essential for our daily lives.
Pierre Gratton is the president and CEO of the Mining Association of B.C.