Evidence of meeting #31 for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was companies.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Paul Hébert  Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada
  • Ryan Montpellier  Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council
  • Philip Bousquet  Senior Program Director, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
  • Scott Cavan  Program Director, Aboriginal Affairs, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

March 27th, 2012 / 4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Gentlemen, I will speak in French. Bousquet, Hébert and Montpellier are francophone names. I will give you all my questions at once. You can decide who will answer them.

Do you think it would be a good idea for the industry players to consult aboriginal people living on a given territory, prior to the exploration stage in mining?

Could you tell us what the real effect of the positions and interests of the country's aboriginals regarding mineral development initiatives are, considering their absence at the decision-making level, within the Canadian mining industry? You talked about 1% or less.

Could you also tell us what you think about the real redistribution of wealth and social benefits stemming from resource extraction on a given territory, within the population? In your documents, you mentioned Attawapiskat. I don't need to tell you that the media have exposed a fairly problematic social situation in that community. Once again, I submit this respectfully.

You can decide who will answer these questions.

4:30 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

I can begin by answering the last question.

The exposed situations in Attawapiskat make it clear that there are some considerable challenges involved. Those situations are making me wonder. For instance, we know that De Beers earned $325 million through contracts with companies that belong to the Attawapiskat community. However, the profits are not being redistributed. I have no answer as to why; I don't know. There are clearly some challenges involved.

There are other examples of agreements that are working very well. In those cases, whole communities, and not only a few owners, are benefiting from the economic activity. Each case is unique, since each community is different. Every community has different capacities. It would be worthwhile to compare the agreements of different communities in order to determine what is working and what is not.

You are correct in saying that this is a challenge. I think that we should build on the successes and work on targeting the problems.

As for the pre-exploration consultations,

I think I'll defer to my colleagues at the PDAC.

4:30 p.m.

Senior Program Director, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

Philip Bousquet

Thank you.

With respect to consultation and the crown's duty to consult, the first step that we take as an association is to offer guidance to our members through our program e3 Plus: A Framework for Responsible Exploration. It is something that is apart from regulations. They're good practice guidance for social engagement, for community engagement. Beyond that there is a lack of certainty in Canada as a result of the interpretation of Supreme Court decisions, and provincial governments are revising mining acts to try to keep up with those decisions. We're seeing that in a number of jurisdictions. For instance, Ontario introduced a new mining act three and a half years ago. Now, after extensive consultation they're developing regulations that would have the intent of addressing the crown's duty to consult and those duties that can be passed on to third parties such as our members.

4:30 p.m.

Program Director, Aboriginal Affairs, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

Scott Cavan

On the last piece, one of the principles we abide by is we ask the industry, or if they ask for our advice, to engage the community early and meaningfully throughout the process from start to finish.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Mr. Boughen, you have five minutes.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm going to add my voice. Welcome to the panel. Thank you for sharing part of your day with us.

In what ways does your organization work with aboriginal communities to improve environmental stewardship in mining activities? Can you highlight a couple of those for us?

4:35 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

Sure. Members of the Mining Association of Canada are bound to participate in a program called Towards Sustainable Mining, or TSM for short. TSM outlines a number of performance standards in a number of areas, ranging from tailings management to GHG emissions and energy use, to community consultation and aboriginal engagement.

That program is overseen by a community-of-interest panel, which includes representation from civil society and a number of groups, including first nations groups. They provide governance and administration input to the program at an oversight level. That translates on the ground into how our member companies apply and use TSM in their environmental management and increase their environmental performance.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

What would you say are your best practices in this regard?

4:35 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

I would point to TSM. It is an award-winning program. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, at the PDAC, we won an award. We won awards from the GLOBE Foundation. We've had recognition from Five Winds.

TSM is exceptional, in that it requires companies to publicly report against all of these protocols. Every three years they must submit to third-party independent verification. I would point to that as a best practice of a program that's really leading to increased performance from industry, in partnership with communities.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Thank you.

Typically, who is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the social and environmental impacts of mining activities throughout the life of a mine? Who's the boss from start to finish?

4:35 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

It has definitely become part of the culture of mining companies now to report on an ongoing basis on corporate social responsibility, community engagement, and environmental performance. It's part of the annual reporting culture, and it's often on more than an annual basis. They realize it is integral to their social licence to operate, so they need to report on it and demonstrate continuous improvement on an ongoing basis.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Mr. Boughen.

Mr. Bevington, you have five minutes.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Good afternoon, and thanks for being here today.

Of course, in my riding mining is huge, and we want to keep it that way.

I know you have great issues around expanding employment, and I understand that.

I'm a little curious about some of the statistics. On the 300,000 employees you mention in your handout, is that the total industry?

4:35 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

Correct. That's exploration, mining, smelting, and refining. Semi-fabrication is captured within that as well.