How a Made-in-Canada Responsible Mining Program is Going Global

As we transition to a low carbon economy, one that requires mined minerals and metals to be fully realized, it is essential that there be measures in place to demonstrate responsible sourcing. Now more than ever, manufacturers and consumers are demanding that raw materials be mined responsibly and that mining companies be held accountable for their practices. There is a need to not only provide assurance that mined materials adhere to high environmental and social standards, but also to constantly drive performance improvement. The necessity of getting this right is clearly illustrated through the recent tailings failure in Brazil, which has brought significant attention to the mining industry worldwide.

In 2004, in an effort to prioritize responsible sourcing and to increase transparency in the drive for social and environmental performance improvement in Canada’s mining sector, the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) established Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM). TSM’s main objective focuses on enabling mining companies to meet society’s needs for minerals, metals and energy products in the most socially, economically and environmentally responsible way.

“The fact is, we need minerals and metals as they are used in everything from our smartphones to public transit. Given the importance of these raw materials to our daily lives, it is vital that our sector be able to demonstrate that these materials can be produced responsibly,” explained Ben Chalmers, MAC’s Senior Vice President and lead for the TSM program. “We understand that people increasingly want to know that the raw materials in their products were mined using sustainable practices, and the standards included in TSM aim to provide a level of assurance previously unseen in our sector.”

MAC’s TSM program requires mining companies to annually assess, publicly report and verify their facilities’ performance across several critical environmental and social areas, including tailings management, water stewardship, Aboriginal and community outreach, safety and health, biodiversity conservation, crisis management, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions management and preventing child and forced labour.

With demand for minerals and metals expected to grow, particularly given their essential role as building blocks in clean and low energy technologies, TSM can help demonstrate responsible sourcing as it produces site-level performance data in key environmental and social areas.

Transparency is an important aspect of TSM’s credibility, and this is accomplished in large part through the program’s Community-of-Interest Panel, which consists of 12 individuals from Canada’s three Aboriginal communities, environmental organizations, labour representatives, individuals involved in finance, local mining communities, social and faith-based organizations, academics and those involved in international development.  This panel provides guidance and advice on the development and maintenance of TSM and plays a critical role in the assurance and verification of facility performance.

“Through TSM, Canada was the first to develop an externally-verified performance system for mining operations and participation in the program is mandatory for all of MAC’s members’ Canadian facilities,” continued Chalmers. “The results are freely available to the public and are externally-verified every three years to ensure what has been reported is accurate. Together, the program’s protocols are designed to measure the quality and comprehensiveness of facility-level management systems and are intended to provide the public with an overview of the industry’s performance.”

Since its inception in 2004, countries around the world have adopted TSM to draw from Canada’s expertise. Currently, there are six countries, including Finland, Argentina, Botswana, the Philippines and Spain, that have committed to prioritizing sustainable mining practices where they operate. While implementation of the program is a requirement for all MAC members’ Canadian operations, many also choose to voluntarily apply it to their international sites.

“Exporting Canada’s expertise in environmental and social stewardship is one important way that our country can contribute to responsible mining practices around the world,” said Chalmers. “In efforts to encourage responsible mining globally, MAC freely shares TSM with any country interested in promoting mining sustainably.”

One of the key benefits of TSM is the role it can play in helping businesses meet their customers’ needs through the site-level performance data on key environmental and social areas. These include how companies engage with local and Indigenous communities, how they manage biodiversity conservation and tailings, and how they protect worker and community safety and health. MAC is currently working with other standards, including ResponsibleSteel™, the Responsible Jewellery Council, the Responsible Business Alliance and the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance to help establish responsible supply chains for minerals and metals.

TSM reflects our commitment to leaving a positive legacy where we operate,” concluded Chalmers. “In turn, we’re helping businesses and their customers be confident in how their products are made and we are excited to work with new potential partners as TSM continues to spread globally in the years to come.”

To learn more about TSM, visit


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Leor Rotchild