Mining in Ontario: OMA’s Framework For the Future
Without supportive action, most philosophical phrases ring hollow. The member companies of the Ontario Mining Association are making sure the concept of “sustainable development” sounds a more constructive and pleasing – even if not yet quite musical – tune. The mining industry in Ontario is working proactively on a number of fronts to move “sustainable development” along the path from an idealistic concept into a practical reality.
There is a strong will in both industry and government circles to make “sustainable development” real. I gained a genuine sense of this at the mines ministers’ conference held September 2003 in Halifax during a hurricane. Amidst gale force winds, torrential rains and power outages, industry executives, government officials and other stakeholders were able to exchange constructive ideas and commitments over candlelight.
In looking at “sustainable development” achievements over the past year, I would have to say that mine rehabilitation is one area in which the sector has made considerable progress. The Ontario Mining Association has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development & Mines, which promotes the rehabilitation of abandoned mine sites in the province.
The MOU, which is in force for three years, allows for the identification and rehabilitation of specific abandoned mining sites on Crown lands. It allows companies to make voluntary donations, which will be matched by MNDM, to clean up historic mine sites. Also, this MOU permits companies to make donations in kind, such as doing the work – providing manpower and equipment – at specific sites. The agreement is a breakthrough in cooperation dealing with this legacy issue.
In stretching beyond its borders, the OMA continues to be actively involved in the National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative. The OMA is represented on the Implementation Committee of the Ontario government’s new efforts related to source water protection.
While mining operations in Ontario are significant consumers of energy, they are also leaders in improving energy efficiency and promoting energy conservation. Miners have been monitoring and improving their energy efficiency by more than 1% annually since the late 1990s. Metal miners have also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 19% since 1990. The industry is committed to getting more production out of every kilowatt of electricity and litre of gas. Miners are leaders in the Canadian Industry Program for Energy Conservation and the federal government’s Voluntary Challenge Registry.
The OMA is currently putting the finishing touches on a video designed to alert First Nations residents about career and entrepreneurial opportunities in the mining industry. The 14-minute video demonstrates the operation of a mine and rehabilitation of a mine site, and provides information on employment and potential partnership opportunities for First Nations people.
The video is being produced in five languages — Cree, Oji-Cree, Ojibway, French and English. Big Soul Productions, a First Nations company, is making the video with guidance and technical input from an industry advisory committee. An agency of Industry Canada, FedNor, is furnishing financial support as a partner in this project.
Safe production in the workplace remains the cornerstone of all activities in Ontario mines. With a loss time injury rate pushed down to 1.1 per 100 workers in 2003 (a 21% improvement from 2002) and a medical aid frequency of 8.4 per 100 workers in 2003 (an 8% improvement), mining is one of the safest industries in the province. The sector has the long-term goal of getting to zero. To push this forward, the OMA has started Serious Incident teams and initiated Internal Responsibility System (IRS) reviews and audits.
In ongoing commitments to safety, mines are fulfilling their action plans from the most recent IRS audit. Further action includes a new round of IRS audits starting in January 2005. Also, the OMA is pursuing a study with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety. Its goal will be to assess the contribution of the IRS and common core training to the sector’s improved safety performance since the late 1970s.
Through environmental, energy, communications and safety initiatives, the OMA is taking leadership – and ownership – in making mining a sector that is willing to join in the chorus and support the “sustainable development” symphony. For further information about Ontario Mining Association activities, check out the OMA website, or call the office (see box).
A Snapshot of the OMA
The Ontario Mining Association (OMA), founded in 1920, is one of the longest-serving trade organizations in the country. Its mission is to support and improve the competitiveness of the mineral sector in the province.
The association has 55 member companies. It represents companies engaged in the environmentally-responsible exploration, production and processing of minerals in the province. While most mining activities are located in northern Ontario, companies mining salt and industrial minerals in southern Ontario also belong to the association. In addition, there is a class of associate members involving contractors, suppliers and engineering and environmental consulting firms.
For more information about the OMA, take a look at the association’s web site www.oma.on.ca.
Jim Vincent is chairman of the Ontario Mining Association, and mine manager of The Canadian Salt Co.’s Ojibway mine in Windsor, Ont.