Sep 13, 2016 9:29:00 AM
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Mining companies operate in some of the most remote areas of the world. Very often these are areas that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This presents local risks around operations from flooding, droughts, and extremes of temperature. This also creates an impetus for mining companies to play a greater role in reducing GHG emissions across their operations.
Organizations and associations within the mining industry have been working to address climate change for years. Mining companies and associations are working hard to reduce their own emissions though tapping into renewable energy on-site, switching to underground from open pit mining, automating machinery to cut fuel consumption, and changing approaches to smelting and refining to become less energy intensive.
The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) released its first climate change statement in 2000. Since then, MAC has made a number of strides regarding climate change, including adopting the International Council on Mining and Metals’ climate change policy in 2009 and releasing the Principles of Climate Change Policy Design report in 2016.
More recently, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $325,000 in a Mining Association of Canada initiative to give mine operators the tools and knowledge needed to better plan for climate change in decision-making at all stages of mine life. The goal is to make mining operations more resilient to a changing climate and extreme weather events.
The more resilient the mines and supporting infrastructure are, the less likely they are to suffer lengthy closures, and the less risk they pose to workers and surrounding communities.
As the mining sector looks to reduce its own emissions and plan for a more unpredictable climate, mining companies must consider the impacts on workers, contractors included, and the contribution they can make to reducing emissions and improving environmental performance.
Most importantly, contractors must be kept aware of any changing site conditions caused by the climate, including safety implications. As contractors may be on site less frequently, they may not be aware of changing emergency response plans or elevated site risks.
Changing climatic conditions at local mine sites have major implications on operations. A case study of Glencore’s mining operations in Sudbury highlighted the shift in planning that needs to occur to take climate change into account. From altering tailings impoundment designs and management, to planning alternative transport routes, to increased emphasis on measurement and modeling, to investment in new tools and technology, to adjusting standard operating procedures – the implications of climate change are broader than you would think.
By developing best practices for climate change risk and adaptation in the mining sector, the Canadian government and the mining sector recognize there is a real need to improve risk assessment and impacts on mining sites. Not only is this the right thing to do, but by cutting the risk of disruptions caused or exacerbated by extreme weather, it is also good for business and another opportunity to demonstrate Canadian leadership.