February 2015

A decade of progress

MAC releases results from 10th annual TSM Progress Report

By Tom DiNardo

Last December the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) recognized the performance of Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations (INO) in six key areas with the Toward Sustainable Mining (TSM) Leadership Award.

“With this award, we celebrate the dedicated employees of Glencore’s Sudbury INO for being a role model to other mining operations in Canada,” said Pierre Gratton, MAC’s president and CEO, in a press release.

The TSM Leadership Award acknowledges mine sites that have scored at least level “A” across six key performance areas, called “protocols”: aboriginal and community engagement; safety and health; crisis management planning; tailings management; biodiversity conservation management; and energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions management. There are indicators within each protocol to further evaluate performance in these areas, which MAC grades using a five-point scale, ranging from “C” to “AAA.”

“Level A is what we define as good practice, and that’s the goal of the association and its members,” said Ben Chalmers, vice-president of sustainable development at MAC. “That basically means that you have a fully functioning management system in that area, and that’s no small feat.”

Level “AA” is awarded for the integration of protocol into management decisions and business functions while level “AAA” is for excellence and leadership. “There are certain criteria at each of those five levels for each of the indicators that must be met in order to achieve that level,” he explained. Self-reported results are periodically verified by independent consultancies approved by MAC.

MAC was especially impressed by Sudbury INO’s energy use and GHG emissions management, awarding it a level “AAA” across all indicators in this protocol. In 2010 Glencore developed and implemented energy management plans at the facility to monitor and control energy consumption. Sudbury INO also implemented ventilation on demand at Nickel Rim South and upgraded the compressor at its smelter.

In the area of safety and health, Sudbury INO reduced its injury rate by about 60 per cent in 2013. “This award represents our concerted efforts on a number of important fronts including the advancement of our safety culture to much higher levels,” said Glencore vice-president Marc Boissonneault in a press release. “To see that we have also been recognized for our performance in five other key areas in our sustainable development framework is also quite an honour.”

Last year marked a decade since MAC launched its TSM Leadership Awards, first conceived in 1999 in the wake of a number of issues linked either directly or indirectly to Canadian mining companies, such as the 1998 Los Frailes tailings dam breach in Spain. “It was also a realization that we were starting to have challenges getting permits and continuing to operate because of these issues,” said Chalmers.

MAC’s board of directors officially launched the TSM program in 2004. Reporting began in 2005, though results were unverified. Then, in 2006, MAC began using independent reviewers to verify results from the 15 companies involved in the initiative at the time. In 2013, 63 facilities across 23 companies participated.

In the last 10 years of reporting, Chalmers said one of the biggest improvements has occurred in the community engagement protocol. In 2006 an average of about 50 per cent of mines met at least level “A” good practice, with results varying a bit from one indicator to another. Today, MAC reports that the number of facilities reporting at least level “A” in some indicators in this area is up to 90 per cent, with others just below that.

Chalmers said he believes that the TSM initiative has contributed to improvements in this area, giving the industry a tool to measure progress.

Another area of significant improvement is in tailings management, although it has not been a steady increase. Chalmers said that for the first three or four years of the initiative, the percentage of mines reporting at least good practice for tailings remained stagnant at around 50 per cent. So MAC’s board and the community of interest advisory panel raised their concerns to the association, which in turn undertook efforts in awareness building and training around management system guides.

“Almost immediately we began to see big increases year over year,” said Chalmers. Now three out of five indicators hover around 90 per cent level “A” achievement, with the two remaining at around 80 per cent.

Other protocols see companies making less consistent gains. This year, for instance, MAC recorded level “A” achievement as high as 86 per cent for energy use and GHG emissions management in one indicator (energy use and GHG emissions reporting systems) but as low as 37 per cent in another (energy and GHG emissions performance targets). Chalmers said one of the reasons for this is that MAC originally included the protocol when energy use and GHG emissions management was an emerging topic in anticipation of regulations that never materialized.

In the biodiversity protocol, the progress report recorded that roughly half of facilities attained at least a level “A” in each of the three indicators. Chalmers attributes this to biodiversity only being added to the program two years ago. “[These numbers] reflect an area where we see an opportunity to do a lot of work and make some improvements,” he said.

Chalmers noted that the weaker numbers demonstrate the program’s integrity as a mechanism to understand where company resources are being allocated. “I think this shows the strength and credibility of TSM,” said Chalmers. “It’s not easy to achieve high levels of achievement across the board.”

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