What have been OMA’s key highlights and milestones over the last year?
OMA is excited to be celebrating our 100th anniversary this May (the 2020 celebration was delayed due to the pandemic). We also have our first female chair, which is another milestone worthy of celebration. Safety remains paramount to the industry, and Ontario is one of the safest jurisdictions in the world for mining. We achieved a 96% improvement in lost time injury frequency over 30 years. When Covid-19 struck, we applied our expertise to ensure safety across all operations.
How have you seen ESG progress in Ontario’s mining industry?
ESG is a framework that helps us balance benefits to people and the planet, while delivering profits and helping the economy. The rise of the green economy and digitization rests on the mining industry’s success, and we need to ensure the cycle is complete by producing essential minerals and metals in an environmentally friendly manner. In Ontario, our electrical grid is essentially carbon-free, giving us a considerable advantage on GHG emissions. The whole supply chain must be green to achieve green inputs in operations and our association has been focused on delivering on Target Zero+ goals: that is, mining with zero harm to workers, zero carbon and zero waste, while improving productivity. Using electric vehicles underground is an example of a practice that is good for the environment, and also makes our operations more profitable, since other equipment would require more frequent repairs due to a high number of moving parts. There are 40 operational mines in Ontario and they are implementing new technologies where it is feasible and economically viable.
How has the OMA adapted to Covid-19?
Due to the public health hazards in meeting face-to-face, we now hold our meetings and workshops remotely using online platforms. Our current working mode allows us to pull together hundreds of participants quickly, and makes it easier for them to attend. In general, the pandemic was a time to re-think many standard approaches.
When major safety incidents happen, how would you describe the ripple effect on the industry and what support do you provide?
Every one of these incidents is a learning tool. One of these very rare events, which made the news recently, was a mine shaft becoming compromised at Vale’s Totten mine, necessitating the rescue of 39 miners who were stuck underground. Fortunately, all the miners were brought up to the surface quickly and no one was injured. There will be lessons learned from this experience, as well as reports and investigations, that will inform future preventative practices. Every operating mine relies on their local team, which is assisted by the provincial team. Even though mines in Ontario go deeper than 1,200 m in many cases, there is always a safe frame, ventilation and communication – including WIFI, which the miners at Totten used to watch videos, relieving tension as they waited for the rescue teams to arrive. There are also alternative exits. The infrastructure is solid and stable, and the safety protocols that rely on safe rooms and rescue teams ensure that no harm is done to workers.
What is being done to mitigate the risk of skilled labour shortage?
The OMA created the “This Is Mining” campaign to educate millennials on the importance of mining and to make them excited about joining the mining workforce. We encourage your readers to listen to This Is Mining: The Podcast, winner of Outstanding Branded Series at the 2021 Canadian Podcast Awards, to get a flavour of the campaign. We plan to continue our outreach activities to help young people recognize the exciting career and lifestyle opportunities that mining offers. The average weekly wage in Ontario mining is 70% higher than the average industrial wage in the province, so that is one thing that should help us attract skilled labour. But we need to do more collectively to reach into the school system and promote careers in mining to women, since they are underrepresented in the industry, and to youth overall.