Canadian mining firms recognised for excellence in sustainable mining

Thew New Afton mine

Rio Tinto's copper wire project

3rd May 2023

By: Creamer Media Reporter


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The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) has awarded the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) Excellence Awards to New Gold’s New Afton mine and Rio Tinto’s Diavik mine.

New Gold and Rio Tinto's sustainability projects, focused on community engagement and environmental stewardship, were recognized at the CIM Awards Gala, in Montreal.

“Mining companies recognized by the TSM Excellence Awards represent the best of the best when it comes to exemplary responsible practices and strong commitments to ESG," said MAC president and CEO Pierre Gratton.

"Our industry has a particularly important role to play in ensuring the minerals and metals needed for the technologies we rely on are readily available and it is integral that they be mined using the highest standards, like TSM, in the world."

A mandatory component of MAC membership, TSM is driving performance improvement across a range of social and environmental issues where it matters most — at the mine site level. This focus on mine site performance makes TSM a go-to system for investors and manufacturers looking to invest in and purchase responsibly mined materials. A national independent Community of Interest Advisory Panel oversees the programme, including representatives from Indigenous communities, environmental organizations, labour, finance, local mining communities, social and faith-based organisations and academia.

TSM performance is evaluated across a set of detailed environmental and social performance standards, including tailings management, climate change, water stewardship, Indigenous and community relationships, safety and health, biodiversity conservation, crisis management and preventing child and forced labour. As a constantly evolving programem new TSM protocols are introduced to meet society's expectations on what constitutes good practice and a new standard focused on equity, diversity and inclusion is expected to be published later this year.

"We are proud that TSM, a made-in-Canada standard, is now in the process of being implemented by 14 mining associations around the world, making it the most widespread ESG programme of its kind," said Gratton.

"We applaud the work being done by this year's Excellence Award winners as it showcases the positive results that can be achieved when environmental stewardship and community engagement are prioritised."

Established in 2014, the TSM Excellence Awards include the TSM Environmental Excellence Award and the TSM Community Engagement Excellence Award. To be eligible for the awards, mining companies must be actively implementing TSM. The Community of Interest Advisory Panel provides guidance and advice on the development and implementation of TSM and selects the winners of the TSM Excellence Awards.

2023 TSM COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT EXCELLENCE AWARD WINNER – Community Engagement at Diavik Mine Turning Copper into "Gold"

With demand for minerals and metals presently soaring, owing in large part to their essential nature in low-carbon technologies, ensuring there is enough supply to enable the global energy transition is imperative. In addition to mining new deposits for materials, such as copper critical to green tech, the need to increase the rate at which metals are recycled is high, and there is an opportunity and growing need to do more. 

Transitioning to a cleaner economy starts with modifying practices and technologies to create economic opportunities out of the materials that might otherwise be thrown away. This is the essence of what is known as the "circular economy", the idea that supports business practices that extract as much value as possible from resources by recycling, repairing, reusing, repurposing, or refurbishing products and materials — eliminating waste and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Rio Tinto's Diavik diamond mine exemplifies circular economy best practices through partnership and local community engagement, both central tenets of TSM's Indigenous and Community Relationships and Climate Change protocols.

Several years ago, employees at Diavik recognised an opportunity to repurpose copper wire from predominantly completed underground mining levels. A core group of passionate employees took the initiative to propose to Diavik to salvage copper wire where possible, and collect it in containers for transport off-site to donate to community groups. Diavik endorsed this idea and included this activity as part of scheduled work, so those who volunteered were paid for their time.

This project worked to a small extent but grew substantially when, in 2019, Diane Haché, a retired employee, and her partner Michel Tremblay, a current employee, led the volunteer efforts to maximise the mine's recycling efforts, through stripping and shipping of the salvaged copper for sale, with all proceeds going towards Diavik's Community Contribution Programme. Since the project's inception, the results have been significant, raising over C$500 000 for local charities like the Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation, YWCA NWT, HomeBase Yellowknife, Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation, and NWT On The Land Collaborative, and diverting roughly 225 000 lb of copper cable from the landfill.

This community-led project continues to expand, and in 2022, the Common Ground Crew, an initiative run through the Yellowknife Women's Society that provides day labour to people experiencing homelessness, was brought on board. The crew worked alongside Haché to process the copper, with wages taken from the proceeds. The initiative provided residents with several hundred hours of employment while also increasing the volume processed.

Diavik has purchased a copper wire stripper to increase the rate and volume of salvaged copper that can be stripped. Further, copper cable can and will be salvaged through the mine's closure process to go towards recycling and generating funds that can benefit local communities while minimising the mine's environmental footprint.

Representatives of MAC's Community of Interest Advisory Panel were impressed by the significant impact this innovative recycling programme has had in the local area, through employment, volunteer opportunities and charitable donations. They also noted how this initiative is providing one of the key metals essential to the green energy transition, copper, by repurposing materials that have already been used – an excellent example of the circular economy at work.

2023 TSM ENVIRONMENTAL EXCELLENCE AWARD WINNER – New Gold's New Afton Mine Leading the Way in Energy and GHG Performance

With the rapid move to electrification of the transportation industry, sustainably produced copper is essential. As an energy-intensive industry, reducing climate impacts from the mining process is important for sustainable production.

New Gold as a company is leading the way in its commitment to GHG reduction. The New Afton mine is both AAA verified in the TSM protocol for energy and GHG management and is also the first and only mine in North America to be certified to the International Standards Organization's (ISO) 50001:2011 Energy Management Standard.

Leading programmes like TSM and ISO are well-established and widely respected as top-tier standards. When standards like ISO 50001 and TSM are met, this means energy management practices are at the highest level. New Gold's New Afton mine is also continuously trying to improve through the application of innovative new technologies and best practices, with the support of its Indigenous partners and employees.

Companies who achieve ISO 50001 are widely recognized as being top performers in sustainable operations. Since first committing to ISO 50001 in 2014, New Afton has achieved annualized energy savings equivalent to 15% of its total 2021 energy consumption, and substantial GHG reduction. This is partly owing to the mine's adoption of low-carbon technologies, including the continued electrification of New Afton's underground fleet via the use of battery electric trucks and loaders.

Combined with its TSM results, the ISO 50001 achievement represents the company's dedication to lessening its environmental footprint and will hopefully inspire other companies in the industry to do the same. 

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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