Our Hot Topics poll question concerning consultation with environmental advocates continues to spark lively debate. Fifteen percent of our readers believe mining and exploration companies do too much consultation with environmentalists; that surprises me because I would have thought you can’t do too much of a good thing. Not surprising is that 50% of our readers believe there is not enough consultation. And their comments keep coming.
From a 35-year veteran of the mining industry:
“While I think mining & exploration companies do not do enough consultation with environmental advocates in general, I am not too sympathetic with a considerable number of the advocates, who will resort to any means they can find to support their cause. The blatant over-exaggerating stories of harmful minerals or metals present, the stories of pristine water conditions before development by mining are mild examples of this treatment. Who can be trusted? Farmers who remove apple orchards for a more lucrative crop are as guilty of causing sedimentation as some one removing trees to create a plant site, yet who is written up as the environmental villain?”
“Consultation on environmental issues is at minimum a two-way street. Perhaps environmental advocates should be consulting with the exploration and mining industry. If so they may be apprised of the many advances the industry has made to improve environment disturbances. Is it a level playing field, so to speak? Is mining the only sector that requires some disturbance on the landscape to operate? I think not. Are other sectors expected to consult or be consulted? In short, yes – consult, but not with a gun held to the head. Let it be amicable, factual, balanced and in consideration of all sector disturbances on the landscape.”
From a reader in Newfoundland, a reminder that it is not just environmentalists who must be consulted:
“Mining and exploration companies need to do more direct consultation with the general public in order to better inform the public about the mining industry. If environmental groups want to attend these sessions so be it. The industry must have its homework done and be well prepared when embarking on public consultations.”
From Robert Laboucane in Calgary:
“I am facilitating our ‘Aboriginal Awareness Training Program’ at the Canadian Uranium Symposium in Vancouver. The hundred or so people participating are hearing from practically every conference presenter about the need to prioritize public consultation with particular emphasis on aboriginal people and the environmental community. Dispelling myths, misinformation and changing distorted negative public perceptions must be addressed through consultation, often one person at a time.”
From another corner of cyberspace, another angle on the debate:
“Miners should be joining the environmental organizations. [Miners should] become active members, not opposition. After all we are part of the environment. Doesn’t it come down to resource management and good stewardship?”
From a senior metallurgist in Toronto:
“Every mine that fails to open due to negativity initiated by an NGO [non-governmental organization] is proof that not enough has been done. I once tried (before joining Wardrop) to intervene on behalf of a mine that planned operations in South America, only to be told that the company’s engineering team had everything under control. Two years later when the company shares dipped and the board was dismissed, it was obvious that they were not in control. However, being able to say ‘I told you so’ has no silver lining. The company lost but the community lost even more.
“I am a strong believer in the ICMM [International Council of Mining & Metals] community development tool kit in pioneering new approaches in support of sustainable development in the mining sector. Realizing that I do not have the momentum to move this by myself I have joined with a engineering consultancy that has similar views. Hopefully we can convince those still nave enough to think that a positive cash flow is enough to open a mine, that doing so will be a lot easier within a stakeholder team.”
Consultation with land users is only one type that needs to be initiated, says a concerned citizen of Clayton, Ontario:
“In Ontario provincial ministries have their own policies and requirements that conflict with each other on occasion. The Ministry of Northern Development and Mining (MNDM) both regulates and promotes mining of various types in Ontario. Most conflicts could be avoided if MNDM and other ministries collaborated in order to determine the high-risk or conflicting land use requirements within the province. MNDM could then disallow prospecting in the first place on those areas that require protection or are known to be under review while aboriginal land claims are settled.
“Some examples where conflicts may arise are:
– source water protection in highly vulnerable and populated regions;
– community proximity health risks;
– First Nations’ land claims;
– conservation requirements, e.g., A2A (The Algonquin to Adirondack Conservation Initiative); and
– alternate land use plans by other ministries and municipalities.
“It is important for the province to grow its economy; however if ministries were to pre-plan and determine potential areas of conflict, then prospectors could target alternate areas and be more effective to the industry. The general public would also be more productive in their particular work since disputes or competing priorities with a particular mining prospect can be avoided in the first place.”
Good advice for Canada’s territorial, provincial and federal governments.