Ontario’s Green Miners Handle Broad Palate of Environmental Issues

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.

The Ontario Mining Association Environment Committee has representatives from most member companies, who possess a wide spectrum of specialties and tackle a broad palate of issues and concerns.  Under the leadership of Committee Chair Nancy Duquet-Harvey of Northgate Minerals, about 30 of the green miners met recently in Timmins.  The group had an extremely full agenda in the session, which followed the second Ontario Mine Reclamation Symposium and Field Trip.

The OMA Environment Committee regularly deals with the Ministry of Environment and handles both analysis of proposed legislation and regulations and proactively develops programs, protocols and, in some cases, computer software to improve environmental performance and reporting of member companies.  The group makes it a habit of sharing best practices, communicating well and working co-operatively.  The collective expertise that members bring to the Committee makes it possible to effectively address issues that are highly complex and technical. 

Major items on the agenda for the recent Timmins meeting included responses to the Toxics Reduction Act and the air standards setting process under Regulation 419.  The Committee has made two submissions on the toxics reduction initiative, expressing support for the government´s intent, but concern about provisions for very broad regulation-making powers and the lack of any defined test setting out how “toxic substances” will be identified and designated. 

Depending on how toxic substances are defined, the legislation could result in the stigmatization and or banning of substances that have a legitimate place in society.  The group is also looking at the MOE´s approach to setting air standards and determining compliance.  The goal is to work with the government to develop an approach that focuses on technologically driven continual improvement that translates into better health outcomes for Ontarians.

On the proactive side of activities, Hemlo Mines offered the Committee a look at its innovative system of pipeline surveillance, which detects leaks in tailings pipelines using thermal imaging.  Also, a protocol has been developed concerning the rights and obligations of mine site employees related to Ministry of Environment inspections.  It sets out guidelines for a clearly defined and professional relationship between the industry and regulators.  In addition, the Committee is developing a best management practice guide for controlling fugitive dust emissions at mine sites.  

Wildlife — both fauna and flora — are important considerations to OMA Environment Committee members.  The group made a submission under the Endangered Species Act concerning the proposed peregrine falcon habitat regulation, examined Ontario´s caribou conservation plan and participated in Ontario´s Biodiversity Science forum workshop.  Comments are being provided on technical guidelines in the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act.

Climate Change, and in particular the proposed cap-and-trade regime, is on the agenda for the OMA Environment group at this time along with planning for the third annual Ontario Mine Reclamation Symposium.  This committee provides concrete actions to support the industry´s social license to operate.  The Committee´s next meeting is likely to be on September 16 and 17, 2009 in Sudbury.  For further information on the actions and activities of this group contact Adrianna Stech, OMA Manager of Environment and Sustainability astech@oma.on.ca.