The new face of mining

The search for higher standards of safety and sustainability leads the sector to incorporate innovative technological solutions – and Canada already accumulates experience in this area

By Sérgio Siscaro

In the perception of the general public, the mining sector is generally associated with the adoption of aggressive practices towards the environment and the communities close to its projects. However, this landscape is changing, and Canada is taking a leading role in adopting sustainability principles in its mining operations – protecting the environment, dialoguing with local communities and encouraging diversity and inclusion.

In order to make the clean technology solutions for mining developed by Canadian cleantechs better known, a Canadian virtual business mission participated in October in contacts with possible Brazilian business partners, carried out in parallel with the Expo & Congresso Brasileiro de Mineração (Exposibram ).

The initiative, carried out by the Chamber of Commerce Brazil-Canada (CCBC) in conjunction with the government of Canada (through its Trade Commissioner Service in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte), was disclosed earlier this month at the virtual seminar Canada at the Forefront of Sustainable Mining – which had a panel exclusively focused on Canadian cleantechs.

Leadership position

“Canada is today a leader in the development of clean technologies for mining”, said Monica McDonough, commercial manager of the clean technology sector at the Consulate General of Canada in São Paulo. She opened the panel on cleantech, explaining the role of the consulate and the province of Quebec in promoting the virtual commercial mission of Canadian cleantechs.

“The Canadian mining industry presents many opportunities for applying environmental solutions. We consider as ‘clean technologies’ those that bring benefits to the environment; Canada has expertise in clean solutions in areas that are very relevant to Brazil, such as dam monitoring, dry mining, treatment of particulates and dust in the air, fuel savings for mobile equipment, water reuse, alternative energy sources and tailings treatment and waste,” he said, highlighting the diversity of solutions developed by cleantechs. “We always seek to understand the demands of Brazilian companies, in order to find the most appropriate solutions.”

McDonough gave a quick introduction to the ten Canadian companies involved in the mission. At the end of the webinar, a series of presentation videos from these cleantechs was shown to the participants, familiarizing them with the products and services developed by these companies.

Then, the advisor for Economic Affairs of the Quebec Office in São Paulo, Luís Antonini, gave a general presentation of the province and its outstanding role in the development of renewable energy sources. In describing the Office’s performance, he discussed how it contributes to identifying potential Canadian clean technology suppliers for Brazilian companies – identifying their demands, pre-qualifying Quebec suppliers, supporting their selection and organizing meetings between the companies.

“Quebec has a very innovative and collaborative ecosystem in mining. We work in close collaboration with the sector’s representative associations, with local indigenous communities around the projects, etc. This allows the provincial government to be very close to the companies,” said Antonini.

Sustainable exchange

During the presentation of the webinar, the Consul General of Canada in Rio de Janeiro, David Verbiwski, addressed the important role that mining plays in the commercial exchange between the two countries – and Canadian collaboration in the application of more sustainable practices in Brazil. “Mining is a sector of excellence in Canada, which has regularly collaborated with the main Brazilian players, aiming at more responsible, efficient and sustainable mining. In this regard, I would like to congratulate the Brazilian Mining Institute (Ibram) for signing a cooperation agreement, in 2019, with the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), which has been working hard to implement in the mineral sector the sustainability principles developed by it”, he stated on the occasion.

These principles – called Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) – were hen discussed by MAC Senior Vice President Ben Chalmers, who opened the event’s first panel. Then, the founder and CEO of R&D 101, Jamile Cruz, the coordinator of Nexa Resources, Vitória Calvi, and the CEO of Ulula, Antoine Heuty, addressed the importance of sustainability, diversity and the application of inclusive policies in the mining sector .

During the event, CCBC’s Institutional Relations director, Paulo de Castro Reis, introduced participants to the entity’s Mining Commission – a board that deals with various topics related to the activity, identifying challenges and trends, and creating business opportunities. “[It] involves Brazilian and Canadian companies and the mining ecosystem here in Brazil. Its objective is to be a forum for discussion and interaction between these companies together with representatives of governments, government and sector agencies from both countries. Good practices from Brazil and Canada are shared, challenges identified and joint actions established for the sector”, he said. Between 2020 and 2021, more than 600 people participated in events promoted by the commission.

The director also commented on the Canada Hub, a new CCBC initiative whose purpose is to facilitate the entry of Canadian companies into the Brazilian market. The program provides the infrastructure and support needed to start an operation in Brazil.

– including having a legal address and business development services.