The following was released by the Ottawa-based Mining Association of Canada (MAC) in response to the PEW Environmental Group’s report “A forest of blue – Canada’s boreal forest, the world’s water keeper.” For more information visit www.mining.ca.
Canada’s mining industry is committed to minimizing and mitigating the impacts of its operations on the natural environment. To that end, the MAC and its members welcome constructive dialogue with all communities of interest, which can lead to improved environmental performance. Wherever possible, that dialogue should be informed by verifiable, peer-reviewed science. Organizations like the Pew Environmental Group (PEG) can be a source of such information, especially given their stated commitment to apply “a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.” In an effort to support PEG in fulfilling that commitment, MAC offers the following specific comments on the organization’s recently released report.
Environmental assessment and permitting
PEG states that “Outdated mining laws in many parts of Canada allow for free-entry mining, often lacking an application process or environmental review.” There is not one province or territory in Canada where a mine could be built without going through a plethora of provincial/territorial and federal approvals. In fact, Canada’s environmental review and application processes are among the world’s most rigorous and comprehensive, and are regularly held up as a point of reference in the international community.
Orphaned and abandoned mines
It is true that orphaned and abandoned mines exist across Canada. For this reason, the mining industry, through MAC and the Prospectors and Developers of Canada joined with Mining Watch Canada and other non-governmental organizations, several government departments and Aboriginal Canadians to form the multi-stakeholder National Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI). Created in 2002, NOAMI reports to the mines ministers of Canada, and makes recommendations for collaborative implementation of remedial programs for orphaned and abandoned mines across Canada.
While the report mentions MAC’s Toward Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative, it fails to recognize that participation in the program is mandatory for all MAC members and that publicly reported results require independent third party verification.
The TSM program has been in place since 2004 and has earned MAC the Globe Foundation Award for Environmental Performance and has been twice independently assessed by leading sustainability experts as best-in-class across all sectors nationally and internationally.
Recognizing the very important challenges associated with water quality and usage, MAC has for many years been an active participant in many multi-stakeholder initiatives including the Mine Environment Neutral Drainage (MEND) program, Assessment of the Aquatic Effects of Mining in Canada (AQUAMIN) and the Aquatic Effects Technology Evaluation (AETE) program. Most recently, we have collaborated with the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy to produce a report entitled “Changing currents: water sustainability and the future of Canada’s natural resource sectors” in 2010.
The MAC and its members work closely with many communities of interest, civil society and government to develop and implement public policy that supports a mining industry that is of great benefit to current and future generations of Canadians. Good policy decisions can only be made when they are based on fact and sound science; we always welcome the opportunity to participate in constructive, multipartite dialogue. The MAC intends to contact PEG to explore gaps in their portrayal of some of the issues.