September 2013

Editor's letter

Take a side

By Ryan Bergen

Awhile back a press package landed on my desk. It included a book that gleefully satirizes those who raise the alarm about climate change and ridicules the promise of renewable energy. If the publisher’s intention was to retread a worn-out argument and alienate all but the most rabid climate change contrarians and status quo champions, the book is a great success. I am not sure why it got sent my way. Perhaps because CIM Magazine covers non-renewable resources, it was presumed we have a stake in this line of thought.

A “business as usual” approach, however, won’t get anyone in mining too far.

This was the message Anglo-American CEO Mark Cutifani brought to the World Mining Congress in Montreal last month, where he challenged his peers to take the risks long-term planning requires to keep their companies and operations viable.

There is no better example of such risk-taking than the bold move that Diavik diamond mine made into wind power generation at its underground mine in the Northwest Territories. A short ice road trucking season a few years ago forced the operators to fly diesel fuel into camp at an enormous expense, and that settled the debate about the risk of climate change for that operation. The company committed $31 million to build a wind farm to ease the demand for diesel. In the story, “Into the Wind,” our news editor and N.W.T. native, Herb Mathisen, reports on his visit to the mine, the hard lessons the operations teams have learned and the steady progress they have made since first tapping into the wind last fall.

Despite the successes, the wind farm is designed to provide only 10 per cent of Diavik’s energy needs. For the remainder, the mine will continue to rely on diesel.

The reality is that for Diavik and many others worldwide, renewable and non-renewable energy sources can be symbiotic. Neither the climate change deniers nor strident environmentalists appreciate that nuance, the latter having portrayed Canada’s oil sands industry as a climate apocalypse waiting to happen, rather than one piece of our world’s energy puzzle.

The oil sands industry has also shown that it is not simply idling while interest groups on both sides of the climate change divide define its public image. Pierrick Blin and Antoine Dion-Ortega detail the evolution of the oil sands’ public persona in “Performance under pressure,” and the active role the industry and its representatives have taken to reframe the public’s understanding of what the oil sands are.

I keep that book, with its merry cover image of joyriding polar bears and burning wind turbines, on my windowsill. It is a useful reminder that the book’s publisher and many others take for granted that the mining industry is on the wrong side of history, and that we would all do well to prove them otherwise.

Ryan Bergen


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