Assessing the environmental impact on mining companies in Canada
Mining impacts the environment in unnatural ways, which not only disrupts its natural decaying process, but also does more damage long-term than natural erosion processes.
Since 1990, mining companies had to comply with increasingly stringent domestic regulations and may adopt voluntary practices that exceed regulations. In the past two decades developing countries have become more aware of environmental issues, and have taken steps to regulate and to protect their environment. Many voluntary measures have also been implemented by mining companies to achieve and maintain their social license to operate.
For instance, Canadian mining companies in the Mining Association of Canada are required to participate in the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM). Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) is an initiative that helps mining companies evaluate and manage their environmental and social responsibilities. It is a set of tools and indicators to drive performance and ensure that key mining risks are managed responsibly at participating mining and metallurgical facilities.
Established in 2004 by the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), TSM’s main objective is to enable mining companies to meet society’s needs for minerals, metals and energy products in the most socially, economically and environmentally responsible way.
At its core, TSM is:
Accountability: Participation in TSM is mandatory for all MAC members, and the Mining Association of British Columbia and the Québec Mining Association are currently implementing TSM for their members.
Transparency: Mining companies publicly report their facilities’ performance against 23 indicators in the annual TSM Progress Report. Results are externally verified every three years.
Credibility: TSM is overseen by an independent Community of Interest (COI) Advisory Panel. This multi-stakeholder group helps mining companies and communities of interest foster dialogue, improve the industry’s performance and shape the TSM initiative for continual advancement.
The TSM includes guiding principles and standards for tailings management, greenhouse gas and energy management, aboriginal and community outreach, crisis management, water and mining, biodiversity conservation, and mine closure.
Companies must report on TSM progress each year and these reports are subject to external verification. Canadian mining companies are also involved in environmental initiatives such as the Mine Environment Neutral Drain (MEND) program and the National Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI).
Furthermore, mining companies are also being asked to demonstrate to their stakeholders and financial institutions that they are managing environmental risks. Investors recognize that managing environmental risk is necessary for maintaining long-term market value, and frameworks such as TSM can help companies to identify and manage these risks.
While mining has historically affected its surrounding environment, advances in technology and changes in management techniques mean that many negative impacts are now avoidable. Increasingly, mining companies are making efforts to reduce the environmental impact of mining and minimize the footprint of their activities throughout the mining cycle. By systematically examining environmental impacts and adopting measures to mitigate these impacts, it is possible to make mining less destructive for the environment.