Canada is Setting the Global Standard for Sustainable Mining

Key Points

• Made-in-Canada initiatives are bringing global recognition to our mining industry as one of the most sustainable in the world

• Canadian companies are voluntarily applying sustainable practices required at home in operations around the globe

• Canada's world-class mining practices means that we should be a global supplier of choice for mined materials and goods


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Sustainable mining methods requiring Canadian companies to operate in the most environmentally, socially, and economically responsible way at home are now being adopted by other nations around the world, thanks to the support of domestic mining companies and the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS).

Launched in 2004 by the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative is a globally recognized sustainability standard that is helping the mining industry build up capacity in a world that’s ever-increasingly focussed on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) performance.

According to Ben Chalmers, MAC’s Senior Vice President, the initiative was established in an effort to “…drive performance improvement in environmental and social issues.”

While participation in the TSM is required for all 44 of MAC’s members and only applies within Canada, many of our home-grown mining companies are voluntarily applying these world-class standards in their overseas operations. In short, Canadian miners are helping to spread sustainable mining practices around the globe, and we should be proud!

Canada is a Purveyor of ESG

Five other global nations – Argentina, Botswana, Finland, Spain, and the Philippines – have also adopted sustainability standards outlined by the TSM, with the guidance of MAC and the support of the Canadian TCS. This has prompted other nations to also consider the possibility of adopting the program.

According to Carlos Miranda, a trade commissioner and liaison officer for mining within the TCS, the TSM initiative “…is becoming a “de facto” standard [globally]… it’s good for business and good for corporate social responsibility, and it also increases knowledge, transparency and openness within local communities.”

Carlos says countries that have adopted TSM have done so largely because of the initiative shown by Canadian companies to take these world-class standards followed at home and apply them abroad. “Canada is not perfect, but we’re getting better, and it can be argued that Canadians are leading the world in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in this sector.”

Canadian Mining in Finland

canadian mining sector jobs facts 2019

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. – one of Canada’s top three mining companies – and its operations in Finland are a prime example of how sustainable mining practices developed in Canada are being applied in foreign jurisdictions. Agnico Eagle operates in a diverse range of environments, including remote, environmentally sensitive locations, as well as those that are close to municipalities, although the challenges of operating under TSM guidelines in both situations are similar.

Agnico Eagle has eight mines in Canada, Mexico and Finland, in addition to exploration and development operations in Sweden and the U.S., where it applies sustainable mining standards outlined by the TSM. The company, which has a head office in Toronto, has more than 10,000 employees and produced an astounding 1.7 million ounces of gold in 2017.

“We’re convinced it’s a level of excellence that mining companies should aim at,” says Michel Julien, Vice-President of Environment at Agnico Eagle. According to Julien – who also sits on MAC’s board of directors and on the TSM governance committee – Agnico Eagle voluntarily follows standards and guidelines set forth by TSM at its Kittila mine in Finland, located about 150 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Since 2009, Kittila has been the largest primary producer of gold in Europe and is home to Agnico Eagle’s largest reserves, estimated at more than 4 million ounces.

Julien says that Agnico Eagle’s commitment to TSM has sparked great interest for the Finnish authorities, eventually leading Finland to adopt these Canadian-made sustainable mining practices but implement them in a way that fits accordingly with their country’s own dynamics.

Julien also expressed the importance of keeping open communications and ensuring “social acceptability” within the communities where Agnico Eagle’s mines are operating. According to Julien, the company focusses on employing locals, giving them a much-needed “sense of belonging” while also supporting families and spurring economic activity in these communities.

Sustainable Mining Helps Global Competitiveness

Canadian mining sector mineral exports 2018

Carlos points out that Canadian mining companies “are one of our flagships in many countries around the world,” supporting over 719,000 direct and indirect jobs and accounting for nearly 19 per cent of the value of Canada’s exports each year.

He highlights the fact that Canadian mining companies also have nearly $170 billion on overseas mining assets, therefore they must compete globally. TSM standards and guidelines help them do just that by ensuring transparency and participation in the local economies in which they are operating.

The application of TSM abroad is also promoting Canada’s international reputation in the global mining industry for having a strong focus on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations.

Chalmers would agree, stating that “We tend to consider ourselves global leaders in mining, and this positions us leading in not just how to mine physically, but how to do it responsibly. We are willing to freely share our know‑how in the environmental and social practices of mining.”

There is a growing interest among manufacturers that rely on mined materials to ensure they are coming from sustainable, responsible sources, he points out.

New Climate Change Protocol

In early May of 2021, the Mining Association of Canada announced plans to strengthen its TSM initiative by introducing a new climate change protocol that will help minimize the mining industry's emissions profile, while enhancing disclosure and improving the sector's adaptability to climate change.

"We are committed to being a constructive partner in the fight against climate change. TSM has a proven track record of driving positive change in Canada's mining industry and this new protocol ensures that we will continue to adopt leading practices related to climate change mitigation and adaptation," said Pierre Gratton, MAC's President and CEO.

"Our mined materials are required inputs for green technology, like electric vehicle batteries, wind turbines and solar panels, and it is critical that these minerals and metals be responsibly sourced with the smallest GHG footprint possible. As an energy-intensive industry, we know we have an important role to play in lessening our carbon footprint, and this new TSM protocol is intended to help our members do just that."

The TSM Climate Change Protocol is yet another prime example of how Canada's mining industry is one of the most sustainable and environmentally conscious in the world.

Given the fact that almost everything we use in our contemporary lifestyle – computers, smart phones, GPS, refrigerators, home furnaces, etc. – are made with mined materials, it only makes sense that Canada positions itself as a global supplier of choice for those minerals and metals found in abundance within our borders.

Canadian Mining Industry Facts

Canadian mining sector economic contribution 2019

> Canada ranks among the top five countries in the global production of 17 minerals and metals

> Canada’s mining sector added $109 billion, or 5 per cent, of Canada’s total economy in 2019 (nominal GDP)

> The mining industry directly and indirectly employs 719,000 people across the country, accounting for 1 in every 26 jobs in Canada

> Mineral exports accounted for 19 per cent of Canada’s total domestic exports in 2018, valued at $106 billion

> Proportionally, the mining sector is the largest heavy industrial employer of Indigenous Peoples, providing more than 16,500 jobs to Indigenous community members

> The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and TSX Venture Exchange are the world’s leading mining and exploration listing venues, where 37 per cent of global mining equity has been raised over the past 5 years

Sources: Mining Association of Canada, Canadian Trade Commissioner Service

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Canada’s mining industry has a world-class record on Environmental, Social, and Governance performance as exemplified by the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiatives our companies participate in here at home and around the globe.

As the world increasingly needs more minerals and metals that will play a critical role in the transition to a lower-carbon future, it only makes sense that Canada is a global supplier of choice for all of the above.

Learn more about mining in Canada by joining us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook today. Hope to see you there!

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