Q&A with Ben Chalmers

Senior Vice President, Mining Association of Canada (MAC)

Q&A with Ben Chalmers

Could you give a short introduction to the Mining Association of Canada?

Since 1935, the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) has been the national voice of the Canadian mining industry. Working alongside our members, MAC promotes the industry nationally and internationally, works with governments on policies affecting the sector and educates the public on the value mining brings to the economy and the daily life of Canadians.

 

There is a perception in the market that Canadian regulators have been holding up the approval of new resource projects? Is this a fair assessment and what should they be doing to streamline the approvals process?

We would say this perception is not accurate with respect to mining projects. There has not been a material change in the length of time or challenges in getting mining projects through approvals in Canada. That said, the regulatory framework in Canada is complicated – Canada is a confederation and provinces hold the primary jurisdiction and are the primary regulator of mining. Each one has a unique approach to assessing and permitting mining projects.

Most mining projects are also subject to federal environmental assessment and some need additional federal approvals. Efforts to coordinate the two levels of government have mostly been inadequate with the exception being the three territories which have single integrated processes for assessing mining projects. This diversity of approval processes across Canada complicates drawing conclusions about timeliness of process since no two projects have the same experience. The federal government has proposed new federal assessment legislation which, if it passes into law and is well implemented, offers hope of improved coordination with provinces and within the federal government.

 

Which mining companies are leading the way in the development and use of advanced mining technologies in Canada?

The mining industry in Canada is involved in a wide array of innovative activities across all aspects of the sector, from the use of artificial intelligence for the analysis of exploration data, to the use of drones and other remote sensing methods for the surveillance of closed mines.

There are many different companies involved, working on their own or in collaboration with other companies, suppliers or universities. The Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC) and the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) are two notable examples of effective collaboration.

A few examples of the success stories from this work include:

 

There are many examples of mining companies in Canada using innovative technologies, but one that specifically comes to mind is Newmont Goldcorp’s Borden Project, which is focusing on environmental sustainability through its aim to be the world’s first all electric underground mine. Not only does this project showcase how Canadian mining can lead the way in reducing carbon emissions, but it also serves as an important example on how the industry can be a leader for change when it comes to the resource economy. In its all-electric focus, the Borden mine will eliminate the use of vehicles powered by fossil fuels, which will eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.

 

How has mining in Canada changed in the past decade, what is being focused on now more than before?

As demand for minerals and metals continues to grow, and with Canada a demonstrable leader in sustainable mining practices, there is tremendous potential for the country to position itself as a responsible supplier of the mineral and metal products the world needs. Mining responsibly is becoming increasingly important for the industry, particularly in Canada, something that is indicative of the evolution and progress taking place in our sector when it comes to corporate social responsibility.

Given the essential nature of mining to our daily lives, it is vital that our industry focus on the future. Playing a leadership role in sustainable practices to ensure those metals and minerals needed for the transition to a low carbon economy are sourced using the highest environmental and social standards is an important priority for our sector. Now more than ever, people increasingly want to know that the raw materials in their products were mined responsibly, and the standards included in our Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) program, which Canadian mines have been implementing for 15 years, are raising the bar for mining.

In 2004, in efforts to drive more focused sustainability practices in Canada’s mining sector, our association established TSM with the main objective of enabling mining companies to meet society’s needs for minerals, metals and energy products in the most socially, economically and environmentally responsible way. MAC’s TSM program requires mining companies to annually assess their facilities’ performance across several important areas, including tailings management, Aboriginal and community outreach, safety and health, biodiversity conservation, crisis management, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions management, and recently introduced protocols focused on preventing child and forced labour and water stewardship.

Exporting Canada’s expertise in environmental and social stewardship is one important way that we can contribute to responsible mining practices around the world. MAC freely shares TSM with other national mining associations around the world that have expressed an interest in drawing from Canada’s experience. Currently, there are five countries beyond Canada, including Finland, Argentina, Botswana, the Philippines and Spain, that have committed to implementing TSM across their memberships. Additionally, while implementation of the program is mandatory for all MAC members’ Canadian operations, many also choose to voluntarily apply it to their international sites, including companies like Agnico Eagle (TSX: AEM), Hudbay Minerals (TSX: HBM), IAMGOLD (TSX: IMG) and Excellon (TSX: EXN) who are actively reporting their performance based on the TSM standard internationally.

 

Does Canada have a focused strategy to become involved in the Electric Vehicle revolution taking place in Europe, China, Korea, Japan, and the US?

MAC’s strategy in supporting the transition to both a low carbon economy and the electric vehicle revolution is centered around our desire to position Canada as a leader in the responsible sourcing of metals and minerals critical to make this transition a reality. Through TSM and Canada’s effective and comprehensive regulatory environment, we believe Canadian mines are well positioned to be a reliable and leading source of critical metals and minerals necessary for the production of electric vehicles, including those necessary for the production of EV batteries.

To accomplish this, MAC is playing a prominent role in the responsible sourcing movement, specifically in developing responsible supply chains for metals and minerals. As part of this effort, MAC works closely with ResponsibleSteel and other partners to ensure that the TSM standard is recognized in emergence of responsible supply chains. The goal is for MAC member facilities participating in TSM to be able to seamlessly feed into responsible supply chains as they emerge, such as those being developed by ResponsibleSteel.

MAC is also working with the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) in efforts to ensure the mined metals and minerals used in jewelry have been sourced sustainably and ethically by aligning audit requirements for TSM and the RJC standard.

 

Canada is seen as a leader in the mining industry. What is Canada doing right and what might it need to do to stay ahead is a competitive world?

While Canada has long benefited from a prosperous minerals and metals industry, we are not immune to global competitive forces, and cannot take the benefits and opportunities that mining offers Canadians for granted. Canada has long been the dominant global mining nation—in mineral production, mining finance, mining services and supplies, and sustainability and safety, but our competitiveness continues to erode. MAC annually releases a report entitled Facts & Figures which provides important statistical information on the state of Canada’s mining industry. Our most recent report identified a number of worrying trends, including:

Despite these trends, our country’s mining sector continues to bring significant benefits to Canadians across Canada, in rural and urban centres, underpinning the value of ensuring mining continues to thrive in this country.

Additional highlights from our most recent Facts & Figures report include:

While much needs to be done to boost our domestic and international competitiveness in order for Canada to reclaim its position as the global leader in the mining sector, there is reason for optimism. Announcements in the federal government’s 2018 Fall Economic Statement (FES), which included a five-year renewal of the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit in addition to enhanced accelerated capital cost treatment for resource projects, will play a role in improving Canada’s competitiveness. The FES, coupled with mining related commitments including the recently released 2019 Budget and the new Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan, show that the issues our industry faces are being taken seriously and that transformative change is possible.

With mining providing the building blocks for the green technology essential to a low-carbon future, and with responsible sourcing being more of a point of focus than ever before, Canada’s mining industry is well positioned for success and we look forward to seeing all our sector will undoubtedly accomplish in the years ahead.

 

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