The implementation of the Mining Association of Canada’s (MAC’s) Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative at its members’ operations is helping drive demand for Canadian investment in global mining jurisdictions.
“We are extremely proud of all that TSM has accomplished in terms of raising the bar for mining performance thus far. Globally, countries want Canadian miners because of their business practices and how they work with communities and raise standards,” MAC president and CEO Pierre Gratton tells Mining Weekly.
Subsequently, there is tremendous potential for Canada to position itself as a responsible supplier of not only the mineral and metal products required globally but also of standards that ensure these commodities are being sourced sustainably, he says.
The initiative is mandatory for member companies’ Canadian operations, but the overall strong appetite among these companies to improve their sustainability efforts and follow best practice has resulted in many members implementing TSM abroad, states Gratton.
“Countries worldwide have also adopted TSM to draw from Canada’s expertise and global interest is growing at a rapid pace. Focused on enabling mining companies to meet society’s need for minerals, metals and energy products that are produced in the most socially, economically and environmentally responsible way, TSM has spread beyond Canada to Finland, Argentina, Botswana, Spain, the Philippines and Brazil.
“Mining associations in many other countries have also expressed interest in the programme,” he elaborates.
Since its inception in 2004, mining associations on five continents have adopted TSM to improve the performance of their domestic mining sectors, says Gratton.
TSM was introduced after consultation with multiple mining stakeholders on the back of increased public scrutiny of the mining industry and a growing recognition that sustainable development was required. This engagement highlighted the need for a mining sustainability programme focused on driving performance improvements at mine-site level.
Gratton explains that the industry has been responsive to the TSM initiative because it addresses the biggest challenge regarding the commitment – action on the ground.
“The programme provides companies with the practical training, guidance and tools needed to drive performance and build meaningful relationships at mine-site level.”
Besides TSM, there are many other sustainability standards applicable to the mining sector, which can sometimes be overwhelming for companies.
Therefore, to help alleviate the reporting and/or audit burden associated with subscribing to multiple corporate social responsibility standards, MAC engages with other standards bodies to find alignment and equivalencies, without compromising the rigour and integrity of TSM, says Gratton.
Each year the programme requires mining companies to assess, publicly report and verify their facilities’ performance against 30 indicators across several critical environmental and social areas – including tailings management, water stewardship, Indigenous and community engagement, safety and health, biodiversity conservation, crisis management, energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions management, and the prevention of child and forced labour.
Consequently, transparency is essential to the credibility of TSM. The initiative is overseen by a Community of Interest advisory panel, which consists of individuals from Canada’s three Indigenous communities, environmental organisations, labour representatives, individuals involved in finance, local mining communities, social and faith-based organisations, academics and those involved in international development.
“This panel provides guidance and advice on the development and maintenance of TSM and plays a critical role in the assurance and verification of facility performance. The panel helps to ensure that the standards included in TSM stay up to date and regularly reviews each protocol under TSM,” says Gratton.
Further, the TSM external verification process helps ensure that the programme remains credible, as facilities are required to have their TSM performance externally verified every three years. External verifications are conducted by independent auditors, with verifiers applying the protocols and, where required, they can change the ratings to ensure the facility’s management practices and performance are accurately reflected.