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Responsible mining

Natural Resources Canada works to ensure that mining in Canada and Canadian mining abroad meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives, positioning Canada as a global leader in responsible business practices and responsible sourcing. The mining industry is a key player in helping Canada grow economically. Canadian consumers also expect the mining industry to incorporate social and environmental considerations. To remain competitive, enable market access and ensure social licence, Canadian mining is taking measures to be more sustainable, predictable and resilient.

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Innovating for a sustainable future

Improving the sustainability of mining in Canada is a goal shared by industry and government. Canada’s mining industry is committed to sustainability, through the Mining Association of Canada’s initiative Towards Sustainable Mining and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s e3 Plus framework for responsible exploration.

The federal government also plays a role through research and innovation at CanmetMINING. Research at CanmetMINING helps mining become more sustainable. It develops new scientific information and technologies that can improve the competitiveness and the environmental performance of the mining industry in Canada. Research initiatives aim to:

  • enhance and accelerate the adoption of green mining technologies and practices
  • develop tools and best practices to adapt water and waste management in a changing climate
  • develop technologies and provide sound science to inform regulations to reduce risks to the environment
  • seek ways to repurpose mine waste to make valuable products
  • advance the adoption of energy-efficient technologies, including electric vehicles and hydrogen, in mining
  • conduct research into processing critical minerals to supply the materials needed for the transition to a low-carbon economy and to meet Canada’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050

For more information about research to make mining more sustainable: Mining research and innovation at CanmetMINING.

Addressing environmental issues caused by old mine sites

Canada is an international leader in research and development to address environmental issues caused by old mine sites. Among programs that Natural Resources Canada is involved in are the Mine Environment Neutral Drainage (MEND) Program and the National Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI).

Launched in 1989, the MEND Program tackles one of the most serious environmental consequences of abandoned mines, acidic drainage. It is a cooperative program, with members from:

  • the mining industry
  • federal, provincial and territorial governments
  • environmental organizations

It has carried out collaborative research into environmentally sound technologies to prevent and mitigate drainage issues. Natural Resources Canada manages the secretariat for this program. The program has succeeded in reducing the liability caused by drainage from abandoned mines by several hundreds of million dollars. It has also established Canada as the recognized leader in research and development on acidic drainage for metal mines. MEND is the Canadian partner in the Global Alliance, an international partnership among organizations involved in acidic drainage research.

The National Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI) was started in 2002 and has concluded. However, efforts to address orphaned and abandoned mines continue to be advanced through an annual meeting among stakeholders. The cooperative program brought together:

  • the mining industry
  • federal, provincial and territorial governments
  • environmental organizations
  • First Nations

The program determined the key issues concerning orphaned and abandoned mines. It recommended collaborative approaches and partnerships to address these issues in former mines across Canada.

Deterring corruption in mining and mineral trade

Canada is a global leader in transparency and governance in mining, oil and gas (the extractive sector), as well as in the mineral trade.

Canada has a law to deter corruption in the extractive sector, the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA). Under this law, mining and oil and gas companies must publicly disclose, on an annual basis, certain types of payments they make to governments in Canada and abroad. The data generated through the ESTMA helps members of the public, communities, civil society organizations, academics and policy-makers better understand the revenues generated by natural resources. Furthermore, the companies reporting can also use their ESTMA reports to show how they are meeting ESG objectives.

Canada also participates in the international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The EITI requires over 50 implementing countries to work with extractive companies and civil society within their borders to annually disclose information, including data related to revenues, social and environmental spending, and monitoring of environmental impacts. Canada currently does not implement the EITI. However, Canada uses its expertise through the ESTMA to play a prominent role as a supporting country to the EITI. This includes providing financial, political and technical support and sitting as an EITI Board member representing Canada, Australia, Japan and the United States.

Learn more about how Canada works to make the mining and oil and gas industries transparent: Extractive sector transparency

Canada is also a member of the Kimberley Process, and, as such, implements the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). The KPCS is an international understanding among governments, civil society and the diamond industry to prevent conflict (“blood”) diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond trade. To implement the KPCS in Canada, the federal government passed the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act (EIRDA) in 2002.

Learn more about Canada’s requirements for imports and exports of rough diamonds and how Canada is working to end the trade in conflict diamonds: Importing and exporting rough diamonds: The Kimberley Process

Responsible business conduct for Canadian mining companies

Upholding social and environmental standards in business is often called “responsible business conduct.” The Government of Canada is working with mining companies and other governments in Canada and other countries to improve responsible business conduct throughout the mining industry.

At home, the Government of Canada, with participating provincial and territorial governments, has committed to the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan ( The Plan will build a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable and prosperous mining industry, underpinned by political and community consensus. It has six strategic directions, most of which involve responsible business conduct:

  • economic development and competitiveness
  • advancing the participation of Indigenous peoples
  • the environment
  • science, technology and innovation
  • communities
  • global leadership

The Government of Canada has a 5-year strategy to make responsible business conduct central to business success in Canadian companies active abroad: Responsible Business Conduct Abroad: Canada’s Strategy for the Future (Global Affairs Canada)

The Government of Canada expects all Canadian companies that are active abroad to respect human rights, operate lawfully and conduct their activities in a responsible manner consistent with international standards, including:

You may also be interested in industry initiatives to promote responsible business conduct: Towards Sustainable Mining (The Mining Association of Canada) and the e3 Plus framework for responsible exploration (Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada).

Critical minerals in Canada

The Critical Minerals Centre of Excellence (CMCE) at Natural Resources Canada leads Canada’s policies and programs on critical minerals, which are essential for a green and digital economy. It collaborates with industry, provincial, territorial, Indigenous, non-governmental and international partners.

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