Low impact drilling in Indonesia
In the minerals sector, it is an exploration crew that often introduces our industry to a community, and it is their activity that begins the relationship. From its very earliest communications and field work, a company is working to build trust and credibility as it conducts exploration to assess the potential of a site. Both the technical and the social aspects of its work contribute to determining the risk and value of investing more time and effort in a project.
Environmental excellence in exploration (e3) is an information resource that is intended to raise awareness of these issues and to enhance the mineral industry’s sustainability through improved company performance. Developed through the contributions of industry leaders and managed by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), it is a comprehensive, Internet-based toolkit that offers leading examples of environmental and social responsibility in the minerals industry. e3 provides users with practical guidelines on exploration activities, community engagement and environmental management. Registration is free and PDAC is working to ensure that it continues to be an accessible resource that reaches the broadest possible audience.
New users and new content
Now in its fifth year, e3 is continuing to expand and evolve. With over 2,500 registered users operating in over 40 countries, it is increasingly being recognized as an essential tool for mineral exploration and community engagement. Users come from a wide variety of sectors. While many (roughly 42 per cent) have a mineral exploration or mining company background, there are a growing number of users from universities and colleges, aboriginal communities and organizations, environmental consulting fields, and government and non-governmental organizations.
Government regulators and affected communities are turning to e3 as a source of information on mineral exploration practices. They expect high standards of performance, and the industry must deliver on these expectations in order to maintain its social licence to operate. Therefore, it is important to ensure that e3 continues to be relevant, current and easily accessible.
In the past two years, PDAC has implemented several enhancements to the e3 database that improved the technical structure (e.g. registration, search engine) and accessibility of the site (e.g. translation into French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian). New content is being developed to respond to user requests for guidelines on uranium exploration, as well as practical information and case studies that address community engagement, cultural heritage and archaeological issues. In September 2007, a new registration interface was launched to determine whether a direct “corporate link” will encourage greater awareness and usage among company employees.
Sustainable development framework for exploration
e3 continues to evolve to meet the needs of the minerals industry. Commencing in October 2007, PDAC embarked on the development of a Sustainable Development Framework for Exploration that will include high-level principles, performance guidelines, performance criteria and indicators, reporting guidelines and a consideration of an assurance mechanism.
The principles and performance guidelines strive to answer the “why” and “what” of applying good practice in mineral exploration. The “how to” of applying good practice will be supported by e3, which will be integrated into the Sustainable Development Framework for Exploration.
Whether operating in Canada or internationally, mineral exploration crews are now viewed as ambassadors for the global mining community, and their success in managing the environmental and social aspects of their work plays a critical role in determining the future of a project. e3 is one of several industry initiatives that demonstrate a concern for good environmental performance and good community relations, thereby contributing to the sector’s sustainability.
Canadians are world leaders in mineral exploration and mining and we are leading the way in developing tools that promote excellence in environmental stewardship and community engagement, both in Canada and internationally.
Philip Bousquet is the director, sustainability, and e3 project manager, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada.