August 2011

Getting a fresh start

Revitalizing CIM’s Environmental Society

By Hartley Butler George

Water-sample 

CIM’s Environmental Society has had its ups and downs. Since its founding in 1998, it has had difficulty finding its footing, coming close to extinction several times. Many elements led to the society’s decline, including volunteer fatigue, unclear focus and isolation from other environmental groups.

A year ago, CIM’s then-president Chris Twigge-Molecey set out to breathe new life into the society by giving it a new leading role within CIM and the industry. “Environmental and social issues are key to our licence to operate,” he says. “They affect everything we do in the mining, metallurgy and petroleum sector. It made no sense not to have viable environmental activity in CIM.”

Twigge-Molecey pulled together a diverse core group of 20 individuals from CIM and the Federal Green Mining Initiative Advisory Council that he believed could lead this project. The group, along with active input from Chuck Edwards, CIM’s current president, were tasked with kick-starting the revitalization.

As it stands, there is no pan-Canadian mining association that focuses on environmental issues as a whole, and no “home” where professionals in the field can connect. “Taking leadership in this area is important for showing the public that mining is an industry that does look seriously at the environment,” says core group member Janice Zinck, manager of mine waste management at CANMET-MMSL and former chair of MetSoc’s environmental section. “The environment isn’t just an afterthought anymore in the industry; it is quite the opposite.”

While revitalization efforts have been made in the past, Zinck believes this time will be different. “The key thing will be linking with other environmental associations and groups,” she explains. “We can’t survive without doing that. We need to expand our network, advertise and build strong, stand-alone events to make the society as great as it can be.”

The group hopes the society will improve the global presence of the Institute, highlighting its environmental efforts, and encourage participation in CIM activities. David Forrester, a core group member and senior mining engineer at AECOM, believes the society “will be a new champion within CIM for increasing the development of knowledge and fellowship aspects of sustainability within the industry.”

The society’s new mandate will promote the industry’s dialogue on responses to environmental and social responsibility challenges, emphasizing best practices, required research and development activities; work with external organizations to discuss opportunities for joint conferences; put a greater focus on the environmental and social responsibility programs of the annual CIM Conference & Exhibition; strengthen the content in conferences hosted by other CIM societies, as appropriate; and publicize global conferences with strong mining/environmental content. In the future, it also hopes to add workshops and join forces with groups that are focused on corporate social responsibility.

Currently, the core group is in the process of crystallizing long-term actions. It has developed a charter and is working on a multi-tier action plan. The next steps will be to grow by engaging other parties, develop a strong business case and report recommendations for its revitalization to CIM Council in late summer 2011.

Many obstacles lie ahead: attracting new members and engaging enthusiastic volunteers are among the challenges the group will face along the way; however the members remain enthusiastic. “It takes time for a small society to grow,” Zinck says. “You need fuel to build a fire.”

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