Samantha Espley,
President,
CANADIAN INSTITUTE OF MINING, METALLURGY & PETROLEUM (CIM)
"Ontario’s mining industry is an instrumental component of the economic strength of Canada and the pandemic has highlighted the essential nature of the industry and its role as a job-creation engine.”

What were some of the highlights in 2020 for CIM?

CIM continues to encourage relevant dialogue across mining’s wide ecosystem – not only in Canada but globally. CIM undertakes its outreach and shares industry best practices and technical knowledge through its award-winning magazine, as well as a quarterly peer-reviewed international CIM Journal. However, the pandemic has accelerated our programming pivot toward digital. Webinars, virtual conferences and podcasts are now a critical part of our strategy.

For instance, our Virtual Capital Projects Symposium, the first of its kind in 2020, was very successful. The biggest challenge for the organization is adapting trade shows to a virtual format successfully. Engagement with members is critical and we are always brainstorming new solutions to extend our reach.

Finally, some of the biggest accomplishments are the publication of three best-practices guidelines focused on mineral reserve and mineral resource reporting; exploration and property valuation; the creation of a new Health & Safety Society within CIM; and the launch of CIM Academy, which hosts recordings of hundreds of technical presentations.

Can you speak to the resilience of the mining sector and its importance to the economies of Ontario and more broadly Canada?

Ontario is the largest producer of gold, platinum-group metals and nickel in Canada, as well as the second-largest producer of copper. Ontario’s mining industry is an instrumental component of the economic strength of Canada and the pandemic has highlighted the essential nature of the industry and its role as a job-creation engine. Mining employs over 500,000 workers nationally and many more indirectly in adjacent industries such as manufacturing and construction. Also, the mining sector is the largest private sector employer of indigenous peoples. In Canada overall, the sector contributes C$100 billion, or 5% of total annual GDP. The industry’s annual exports make up 20% of the country’s total exports.

What role is technology playing in making Canadian mining more sustainable and competitive?

Technology clusters and supply service clusters, such as MineConnect™ based out of Sudbury, contribute to wealth and job creation. They also represent interesting synergies for the mineral sector. Enabling technologies such as underground communication, cloud computing, and software systems make mining safer and more efficient. Mining is an industry that benefits greatly from the utilization of technology and machinery solutions.

Technology also helps secure mining’s license to operate by ensuring the integrity and stability of infrastructure systems such as tailings dams. The social side of the mining equation, working closely with communities, is facilitated by technology as well. Tools such as augmented and virtual reality, for example, can allow engagements and interactions with communities to better familiarize them with project details and the mining process. And, from a different angle, the transition to technologies such as battery electric vehicles and energy storage to reduce carbon emissions will require the raw materials such as cobalt and nickel that Ontario has a long history of producing.

What are some of the biggest knowledge gaps CIM wants to address?

CIM’s role is to engage society to help them become more informed about the minerals industry and to highlight the importance of minerals across sectors and activities. CIM currently has a project in the proposal stage with Science North, a science center in Sudbury, to leverage gamification to share a better appreciation of the science present in the exploration, extraction and processing of mineral resources. Another aspect of mineral literacy is supporting the training of our next generation of industry professionals through measures such as mentoring programs and scholarships. We work with institutions to address the decline in demand for geology and engineering higher education programs, which are crucial for establishing the future success of the industry. Broadly speaking, the three knowledge gaps that CIM is focused on addressing are: health and safety, sustainability, and diversity. We created our H&S society to address mental health and safety, an Environmental and Social Responsibility Society to address the environmental and social impacts of mining and a Diversity committee to foster inclusion.