Mining Global hears from Ontario Mining Association President Chris Hodgson on the capabilities of the mining industry to deliver the minerals and metals making modern life and innovation possible.
The Ontario Mining Association (OMA) was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry in the province of Ontario. One of the longest serving trade organisations in Canada, much has changed since the association was founded, but its mission remains consistent: to improve the competitiveness of Ontario's mining industry while promoting safety and sustainability. “Down the years, the OMA has maintained its core commitment to these ideals while embracing the change we’ve seen across the evolution of society's expectations and the mining industry's capacity to meet them,” confirms OMA President Chris Hodgson.
With its centenary fast approaching, Hodgson believes the OMA is well placed to continue to provide support to its members and the Canadian mining industry for another 100 years. “Our strength comes from our members,” he pledges. “We take a collaborative approach to address issues affecting the industry across various committees. We also work with other associations both at federal and provincial levels that are mining related, for the juniors and seniors. But we also work with governments, industry coalitions, academic research institutions, NGOs, and the public. Historically we've worked constructively with many communities of interest. We’ve had considerable success as today’s technological disruptions now call for a greater variety of input.”
Hodgson is particularly proud of a successful alliance which has seen great collaboration between the government, labour & safety agencies, and employers. “It was a tripartite approach and we'd like to take credit for the safety improvements seen as we approach our goal of zero harm,” he says. “We take great pride in working together with unions, government and industry to drive our safety record to be among the best in the world.”
What does Hodgson see as the main challenges for miners in Canada and how will the OMA respond to support its members and the wider industry? “Disruptive technologies are also changing the way we live our communities and our business. At the OMA, we have got to make sure that we live up to our high standards. And it changes the way we mine, and this is supplying the world with the building blocks of innovation. Our industry cannot help but be affected by the fundamental technological change that we've seen. Our members are inspired by this, and we are enabled with information sharing to keep the innovation process moving. We've launched our target zero campaign, Zero Plus. Our aspirational target is to have zero harm. It’s a big challenge but we’re also pushing for zero waste, zero carbon, and increased productivity; this comes through innovation. We've had a 95% improvement in loss time injuries since we started the campaign. We've had two of the last three years with no fatalities so we’re meeting the challenge and hope that’s a strong trend taking us towards zero harm.” Hodgson points out that on zero carbon Ontario is “pretty close”. For example, nickel produced there has less carbon than any other place in the world. “If you're considering global warming or climate change, in terms of carbon inputs, Ontario offers a huge advantage there.”
Reducing our environmental footprint is a universal theme that the mining industry in North America is keen to adopt. “We are moving to battery powered underground vehicles, which cuts ventilation and cooling costs, but the most important thing is that, without diesel, it makes for a safer, healthier environment underground for workers,” notes Hodgson. “It’s a growing trend in Ontario mines. Currently, we've got Glencore, Newmont Goldcorp and Kirkland Lake Gold all using electric heat technology. Increasingly, companies are designing their sites around battery equipment. Glencore is planning its auditing depth site with an all-electric mining vehicle fleet while Newmont Goldcorp is building the first all-electric underground mine.”
Newmont Goldcorp’s Borden mine will improve safety performance and eliminate up to 7,000 tons of steel tube emissions each year. At three million litres of diesel power per year that is reduced, over a ten-year mine life, this represents a reduction of 70,000 tons of carbon. It also offers a reduction of 330,000MW of electricity while providing increased production. Additional sustainability initiatives are being implemented by OMA members, they include: fuel switching, ventilation en masse, fire reductions and compressors that access heat to heat the building. “We are seeing this around the world,” adds Hodgson. “But our companies are also part of the innovation process while embracing automations and generating motor operations to enable a safer, more productive future.”
Hodgson is proud of what the OMA has achieved in the past 30 years working with labour organisations, industry and government to achieve a 96% improvement in safety. “The goal remains zero harm, and we believe we will get there with the help of the protection laws and innovation,” he pledges. “We are going to need further research, better training and major investment. Digital analytics and robots all help, but it is really the right culture and collaboration that builds the strongest foundation for success.”
To celebrate its hundredth year the OMA is launching a campaign. “This is Mining takes a fresh look at the role of mining in our lives and in our province,” explains Hodgson. “We decided as members, we have always been an industry that looks forward, we have never stood still. This is about the future and the themes around mining that we’re aiming to convey to millennials so they can discover the benefits mining can bring. If they dig a little deeper, they will find more value. Our main purpose is to show that this is an industry that can make a difference to the future of our world. If you look at many of the concerns about the climate, the environment… The materials we need for a greener economy and to find new solutions lie within the products the mining industry makes. We are trying to do that in the most environmentally friendly way possible because we take our stewardship of the earth very seriously.”