Canada’s mining industry has made significant improvement in its environmental performance on many fronts from 1998 to 2008, according to a federal government publication. The “Mining Sector Performance Report” was produced by Natural Resources Canada in consultation with an external advisory committee. It included representation from industry, academia, provincial governments, Aboriginal groups and non-governmental organizations.
“One cannot report on the industry’s performance without noting the significant progress in environmental protection,” said the report. “The mining sector, through multi-stakeholder initiatives, regulatory and financial instruments and science and technology has demonstrated its environmental commitment through reductions in energy intensity, air emissions and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as increases in environmental expenditures, including remediation and decommissioning.”
“This change in performance has taken place against a backdrop of rising public expectations, which has challenged the industry to extend its practices beyond regulatory compliance to environmental stewardship.”
There has been a tremendous growth in investments in the environment. Between 1997 and 2006, environmental expenditures on operating costs rose from $796.1 million to $960.9 million and environmental capital expenditure increased from $420.9 million to $453.6 million over the same time period.
The report shows that with stricter regulations mining facilities maintained a compliance rate of more than 99% in the handling of specific effluents and the protection of fish and fish habitats. The industry demonstrated significant progress in the energy intensity area with a 10% improvement in primary metal mining and a 40% improvement in mineral manufacturing.
Emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent fell per unit of production for all portions of the mining sector. Also, from 1997 to 2007, the mining industry did a good job reducing SOx emissions, which are rich in sulphur by 24%, NOx, which are rich in nitrogen by 32%, and particulate matter of two different sizes by 23% and 42%, respectively.
During the period examined in this study, mining companies made regular and significant expenditures on mine reclamation and decommissioning activities. In addition, the National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI), which is a joint government, industry and public body, has made progress in cleaning up old mine sites. It also has established guidelines and developed policy frameworks for reclamation activities.
“Over the past 10 years, new scientific research, regulatory systems, oversight and industry actions have led to continuous improvements in the sector’s environmental performance,” said the publication. “Nonetheless, reducing the environmental impacts of the minerals and metals industries will continue to be one of the most significant and important challenges. The industry’s public image is closely tied to its environmental performance.”
The Ontario Mining Association’s Environment Committee, which has broad representation from member companies, is engaged in dealing with a plethora of environmental issues. It plays an important role in helping the entire industry make progress on a number of fronts noted in the “Mining Sector Performance Report.” This document can be found at http://www.nrcan-rncan.gc.ca/mms-smm/pubr-pubr/mspr-rpsm-eng.htm.
The next meeting of the Ontario Mining Association Environment Committee is Wednesday, March 30, 3011.
The OMA is working in cooperation with Laurentian University, the Canadian Land Reclamation Association and the CLRA Ontario Chapter to stage the “Reclaiming the Future of Mining” conference in Sudbury June 25 to 30, 2011.