Mining is not a benign activity. It is impossible to remove minerals from the earth and process them without impacting in varying degrees the air, land, water, as well as plant and animal life. However, the goal and commitment of modern mining companies is to minimize the temporary disruption of the environment during exploration and production and to maximize the restoration of ecosystems at the end of the mine life.
Environmental impacts of human activities only became recognized as a concern in the latter half of the 20th century and environmental awareness has developed as a relatively new phenomenon in our society. With this increased environmental consciousness, governments began regulating mining and other industrial activities with environmental protection in mind. As we gain a better understanding of our interaction with the environment and standards grow ever more stringent, advances in technology and changes in management techniques are making it increasingly possible for mining companies to avoid the negative impacts of their activities.
The Ontario mining industry is a world leader in environmental protection and sustains this position through its philosophy, financial expenditures and most importantly, actions. The industry devotes vast resources and millions of dollars annually to environmental protection, environmental improvement and pollution prevention. In the early 1990s, $1 billion was spent on sulphur dioxide abatement programs in Sudbury alone. More recently, OMA member Vale launched its $1-billion Clean AER Project, one of the largest single environmental investments in Ontario's history. Throughout the province, companies are adhering to the highest standards of leadership in areas such as water conservation, energy consumption, reduction of Greenhouse Gas emissions, metal recycling and the preservation of biodiversity. The following examples of best practice guidelines represent the working standards for the industry in Ontario:
e3 Plus: A framework for responsible exploration - Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
Tailings facilities management - Mining Association of Canada (PDF)
Towards Sustainable Mining - Mining Association of Canada
Environmental Policies - Mining Association of Canada
Mine Environment Neutral Drainage (MEND)
Environmental Guidelines - Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (PDF)
Biodiversity and conservation - International Council on Mining and Metals
While the Ontario mining industry is proactively and constantly striving to clean up environmental legacy issues of the past and retrofit existing mines with the latest technology, new mines are built with the express aim of minimizing their ecological footprint.
There is always something fresh and exciting happening on the environmental front. To receive updates on our members' initiatives, sign up for OMA eNews. Become part of the conversation by following our Twitter feed and liking our Facebook page.