Ontario Mining Association Says Climate Change Issue Caught in Web of Complexities

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

Participants in the Ontario Mining Association´s Climate Change Workshop came to grips with the web of complexities surrounding this environmental issue.  The goal of the workshop was to provide some information on the current political and regulatory realities surrounding climate change and how they could impact mining operations in the province.  Mining companies in Ontario spend more than $500 million on energy annually and 95% of the greenhouse gas emissions from the mining sector are derived from energy use. 

Speakers at the workshop included David Clarry from the consulting engineering firm Hatch, who provided a “Climate Change 101” course and Steve Quigley, a principal with Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, who spoke about the global regulatory context and implications for Ontario´s membership in the Western Climate Initiative.  Paul Stothart, Vice president Economic Affairs at the Mining Association of Canada, provided information on the “Towards Sustainable Mining” program, while Bruce Dudley with the Delphi Group provided insights into developing corporate sustainability strategies and led a facilitated discussion on next steps for the OMA.

Over the past decade, the Mining Association of Canada has worked with the Canadian federal government on more than half a dozen greenhouse gas emission reduction plans, including “Turning the Corner.”  Although the future of the latest federal plan is uncertain, there are policy developments in Ontario that clearly need to be considered by OMA members. Along with membership in the Western Climate Initiative, Ontario has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Quebec and released five discussion papers in December regarding Cap and Trade. Participants at the session were encouraged to assist the OMA in responding to these papers and in engaging in a dialogue with the Ministry of Environment.

While all presenters spoke about the uncertainty of where climate change regulations are headed, they all agreed that no industry can ignore that fact that they will eventually be impacted.  They encouraged mining companies to develop inventories of carbon emissions, discuss corporate risks and opportunities and engage with government now, while policies are still being developed.  As an aside, all participants appreciated the irony of holding a Climate Change Workshop in Toronto during the city’s coldest snap of the winter.

Mining companies are committed to continuing to work towards greater energy efficiency, improved energy intensity and a lessening of greenhouse gas emissions.  While doing their homework in these areas, they will also be encouraging governments to provide regulatory certainty and regulatory harmony across Canada, as well as to seek alignment with the policies of the new administration in the US, which is expected to act swiftly on climate change. Needless to say, it costs more to operate in a fractured and uncertain regulatory environment than one that is streamlined with clear and concise rules.  Alignment and clarity of rules in this area will help to ensure the competitiveness of Ontario industry.

The Canadian Industrial Energy End-use Data and Analysis Centre (CIEEDAC) has determined that Canada´s mines have reduced their energy use by 7% from 1990 to 2005 and that Canada´s metal smelting and refining sector has cut its energy use by 17% over the same period.  Both these sectors meet Kyoto targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions. 

While businesses strive to become more energy efficient and cope constructively with sometimes conflicting rules surrounding climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, the impact on a global scale should be put in perspective.  Canada´s resource sector causes approximately 720 megatonnes of carbon emissions annually, which is 1.37% of the estimated global total carbon emissions of 52,500 megatonnes annually.  Ontario´s resource sector at 190 megatonnes of carbon emissions annually accounts for 0.36% of the global total.