The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) has awarded Agnico Eagle and Cameco, leaders in Canada’s mining sector, with this year’s prestigious Towards Sustainable Mining® (TSM) Excellence Awards in recognition of their innovative sustainability projects focused on community engagement and environmental stewardship.
TSM is a performance-based program whereby mining operations evaluate, manage and publicly report on critical environmental and social responsibilities. The program’s main objective focuses on enabling mining companies to meet society’s needs for minerals, metals and energy products in the most socially, economically, and environmentally responsible way and it has been highly successful in encouraging more sustainable practices in mining. In fact, TSM has been formally adopted by mining associations in several countries outside of Canada, including Spain, Argentina, the Philippines, Brazil, Finland, Botswana and, most recently, Norway. Each year, the TSM Excellence Awards honour companies who have done exemplary work in ensuring responsible mining practices.
“MAC’s TSM Excellence Awards represent the best of the best when it comes to showcasing the innovative work being done by Canadian mining on innovation in environmental stewardship and community engagement,” said Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of MAC. “We are extremely proud of what both Cameco and Agnico Eagle have been able to accomplish as they highlight what is possible and achievable in terms of sustainable and collaborative practices in our sector.”
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 the TSM initiative. TSM is overseen by the Community of Interest Advisory (COI) Panel, which consists of individuals from Canada’s three Indigenous communities, environmental organizations, labour representatives, individuals involved in finance, local mining communities, social and faith-based organizations, academics and those involved in international development. The COI panel provides guidance and advice on the development and maintenance of TSM and annually selects the winners of the TSM Excellence Awards.
“There are many innovative projects and initiatives that expand and promote sustainable development within the mining sector and this year’s TSM Excellence Award winners have shown what is possible when it comes to effective community engagement and environmental stewardship in our industry,” concluded Gratton.
TSM COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT EXCELLENCE AWARD 2020 WINNER
Community Based Environmental Monitoring Program
Effective collaboration between mining companies and local communities is essential to ensuring the positive relationships that can define the success of a mining operation. The Community Based Environmental Monitoring Program (CBEMP) is a component of the collaboration agreement signed between Cameco Corporation, Orano Canada Inc., four municipalities, and three First Nations in northern Saskatchewan. This program highlights the positive effect cooperative monitoring and research can have in providing confidence in how mining operations are affecting those living in the local vicinity.
The CBEMP is highly collaborative, and not only involves community members obtaining research information but also integrates local community representatives into both steering the program and participating in sample collection. By involving community members directly in CBEMP’s design and implementation, communities are able to have significant input into the way information is collected, submitted and reported.
The CBEMP builds off 18 years of regional data collection through the former Athabasca Working Group (AWG) Environmental Monitoring Program. In 2018, in consultation with the AWG, the Environmental Monitoring Program evolved to become the CBEMP and the program now consists of a community specific traditional foods study completed in one community per year, rather than a region wide sampling program. This shift has provided local communities with a specific, focused study that reflects what and how much they eat, in addition to providing information on the general location of food in the area. Samples are collected in areas known to be used by traditional users of each community for a more focused and representative study which enhanced the credibility of the CBEMP’s results.
Involvement of community members is and has always been one of the fundamental goals of the CBEMP. Each year, local residents take part in the sample collections which provides opportunities for employment, training and business development. Through the CBEMP, local community members can have confidence that traditionally harvested foods remain safe to eat and water remains safe to drink. The program provides peace of mind that the surrounding areas have not been affected by the active uranium mining and milling operations in the region, all while providing opportunities to local community members – a win-win.
TSM ENVIRONMENTAL EXCELLENCE AWARD 2020 WINNER
Soil Regeneration through Ultra High-Density Grazing Highlights Synergy Between Environmental Stewardship and Innovation
In January 2019, Agnico Eagle’s Pinos Altos Mine in Mexico kicked-off a new state of the art initiative focused on improving soil regeneration through its Ultra High-Density Grazing with Cattle program. This program sets a new standard for best practice in environmental protection and reclamation which can be easily adopted across the industry to improve environmental performance.
The Ultra High-Density Grazing with Cattle program mimics the effect of large herds of grazing herbivores that group together and move constantly as a result of the presence of predators, trampling the ground and plants. In this way, the program replicates nature’s way of regenerating the soil in the waste rock storage facilities during closure and decommissioning. Agnico Eagle’s Pinos Altos Mine was the first mine in the world to use this process to create plant cover in addition to the growth of plants native to the region. This regeneration has taken place in far less time than traditional revegetation methods. In using the existing characteristics of the area for soil regeneration, natural and sustainable restoration is possible, without having to use materials that are either synthetic of from outside the local area.
The communities surrounding Pinos Altos are benefiting from this process in multiple ways, leaving a healthy environment for future generations and creating economic opportunities to generate prosperity for those who reside in the area. The return of wildlife and fauna native to the area in such a short period of time bodes well for the future success of this program.
Not only has this project had impressive results in its first year at the mine-site level, but findings have been so encouraging that the Mining Chamber of Mexico and the Association of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists of Mexico have shown an interest in implementing the method in different mines across the country. Thus, this new innovative program could have a positive impact in communities across Mexico, and the mining industry globally, in the years to come.
For more information about the TSM Excellence Awards and past winners, please visit https://mining.ca/towards-sustainable-mining/tsm-excellence-awards/.
The mining industry is a major sector of Canada’s economy, contributing $97 billion to national GDP and responsible for 19 percent of Canada’s total domestic exports. Canada’s mining sector employs 626,000 people directly and indirectly across the country. The industry is proportionally the largest private sector employer of Indigenous peoples in Canada and a major customer of Indigenous-owned businesses.
The Mining Association of Canada is the national organization for the Canadian mining industry. Its members account for most of Canada’s production of base and precious metals, uranium, diamonds, metallurgical coal, mined oil sands and industrial minerals and are actively engaged in mineral exploration, mining, smelting, refining and semi-fabrication. Please visit www.mining.ca.