[From the article by Ramsey Hart:]
Canada is a global player in the mining sector as a leading producer of commodities like potash, iron ore, coal, uranium, nickel, copper, gold and diamonds. The sector makes up a significant portion of the Canadian stock market and enjoys a prominent place in political realms at local, regional and national levels. While some local communities are largely dependent on the industry, mining makes up less than 3% of Canadian GDP (including metal processing and preliminary fabrication). The domestic economic contribution of the industry is often over-stated by proponents and governments that selectively use statistics. Internationally Canada also plays an important role as home to many of the world’s junior exploration companies and a few top tier global mining companies, and as the centre of financing for venture capital used to fund mineral exploration.
Consistent public criticism of the industry for environmental and social issues at home and abroad have pushed the industry into taking a pro-active response to these concerns. Much of this effort is wrapped up in the language of “corporate social responsibility”. While some definitions of CSR are very broad, for our purposes we define CSR as efforts to make resource extraction more acceptable through non-regulated, voluntary actions by mining companies that:
- provide philanthropic benefits to communities affected by their projects and to broader society; and
- develop and implement “best practices” (as opposed to mandatory regulations) in areas as diverse as taxation, environmental performance, social impacts, indigenous rights, and reporting and transparency.
The CSR phenomenon transcends virtually all economic sectors but within the mining sector its growth has been explosive, with a proliferation of reports, consultants, conferences, workshops and the like. While much of the emphasis on CSR has been as a means to address the “governance gap” in the Global South, there is also a strong domestic CSR culture in Canada led by industry associations such as the Mining Association of Canada and the Prospectors and Developers Association (PDAC), and supported by the Canadian government. This article reviews the CSR culture and practices of mining companies operating in Canada.
As elsewhere, CSR initiatives in Canada are used by the industry as an effort to portray the industry as a “good neighbour and good corporate citizen” and also to thwart attempts to impose mandatory requirements on the industry. Our experience shows that while CSR practices may bring some improvements in performance and transparency, they also serve to obfuscate outstanding issues within the sector and detract from processes to develop necessary mandatory regulatory improvements…. Read the full article.