Historically, the global mining industry has had a bad reputation when it comes to corporate social responsibility—as in, keeping companies accountable to the local communities and the environment in which they mine.
However, helping other people and protecting the environment are very important to young Canadians, and we flock to meaningful jobs that provide opportunities to do both.
In recent years, Canadian mining corporations have developed and participated in numerous corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects.
“Work within the industry rather than work against it . . . This is the best and most effective path for influencing the potential and direct impacts of mining on the environment and local communities.” —Guy Gilron, Director of Environmental Science, Teck Resources
These initiatives help to ensure they keep local residents’ best interests at heart and protect the environment at the same time.
CSR projects are activities completed voluntarily by companies to ensure they work in a socially, economically and/or environmentally appropriate manner.
Guy Gilron, Director of Environmental Science at Teck Resources, a large Canadian mining company, says, “There has been a significant improvement in the implementation of a wide range of mining practices to support environmental protection, community engagement, and social responsibility. Interestingly, this has not only come from increasing and evolving government regulations, but also from the establishment of international best practice standards . . . and industry associations.”
In the mining industry, everything from exploration to extraction will affect the local community. The relationship between the community and the company has the potential to create conflicts, and as a result CSR professionals try to create a harmonious relationship between the community and the mining company.
“Some of the most important CSR practices being employed by the industry include: proper closure planning, inclusion of community engagement and human rights in all aspects of mining operations, and protection of endangered species and ecological receptors and their habitats,” says Gilron.
Over the last 25 years, the involvement of CSR in the Canadian mining industry has increased significantly.
In 2005, the Mining Association of Canada was recognized with the Globe Foundation’s “Industry Association Award for Environmental Performance.” This award recognizes associations whose industry improves environmental performance through research, development, and education, beyond regulatory compliance.
Also, in 2009 Environment Canada published an Environmental Code of Practice for Metal Mines, which outlines the environmental concerns related to mining.
The document covers the life cycle of mining, and recommends environmental management practices. Examples include management of wastewater, and the prevention as well as the monitoring of wastes into the air, land and water.
If you’re still skeptical about the effectiveness of the Canadian mining industry’s CSR activities, Gilron says you should get your hands dirty.
“My advice would be to work within the industry rather than work against it, and strive to incorporate your personal and professional passions for CSR into the way you conduct your work. This is the best and most effective path for influencing the potential and direct impacts of mining on the environment and local communities.”
For more information about starting your career in the mining industry, check out www.acareerinmining.ca.