Canadian Leadership in Mining: Safety, Talent and Diversity
- Canada can lead the global mining industry in terms of the safety of our mining operations and technology. This can be a considerable competitive advantage going forward.
- The future of mining will be automation. It assists in operating equipment in complex areas, thus reducing the risk of injury and extracting a higher output.
- Canadian companies that support the mining sector — suppliers, service companies, consultants — should relay their Canadian and international experiences to maximize our country’s mining competitiveness.
Canada should establish a roundtable of people, which would include leaders from post-secondary institutions, industry leaders and government officials to strategize a plan to ensure that we are a leading mining nation. Leaders in mining need to embrace and model how to engage in and affect change. To do this, we need a combination of having the right talent for the future for mining, having a government that provides a stable regulatory and taxation environment, and can also attract both traditional and innovative investments.
Why are Canada’s mining resources and industry significant to the future of the Canadian and global economies?
Canada is a country rich in natural resources and we need to have a robust mining sector to be able to extract them and benefit economically. Potash is one of the rich resources found In our country and it plays a major role in the country’s economic landscape. It’s one of Canada’s largest mining industries and ranks fourth in Canada for the value of mineral production. In fact, potash mining is present in everyday life for many residents of Saskatchewan — it fuels where the province is heading economically. For example, in 2018 alone, Nutrien generated an estimated $5.8 billion of direct and indirect economic activity in Saskatchewan.
“With a growing population across the globe, there is a huge economic opportunity to maximize our extraction and supply potash to farms around the world.”
That’s because potash makes an excellent addition to agricultural fertilizers. It ensures proper maturation in a plant by improving overall health, root strength, disease resistance, and yield rates.In addition, potash creates a better final agricultural product, improving the colour, texture, and taste of food. In many ways, companies that operate potash deposits are a fusion of both mining and agriculture. And so, with a growing population across the globe, there is a huge economic opportunity to maximize our extraction and supply potash to farms around the world.
In which area of mining operations can Canada become a global leader and dramatically increase our competitiveness?
Canada has the possibility to become the number one nation in the world in terms of having the safest mining operations, no matter where the deposits are located. Although challenging, this is a major opportunity because Canada has tremendous talent and mining abilities. To rank number one in mining globally, we need to improve our leadership readiness. I believe that safety is a core value shared across the Canadian mining sector and that Canadians pride themselves in operating securely. And that’s why it’s important — leadership is about being excellent at what you do, but also continuously seeking to improve and find solutions.In our own experience, and in speaking with companies who have similar values, there is substantial value to be gained in sharing experiences. For example, Nutrien is part of the Saskatchewan Mining Association, and once a year we gather to share experiences through workshops, review emergency drills and hold emergency response competitions. The objective is to stay up to date with shared lessons and keep our best practices in check. If we could apply that level of discipline across other aspects of the mining industry, and combine it with our overall expertise and access to technological advancements in the industry, this would greatly enhance Canada’s mining competitiveness.
“If we could apply that level of discipline across other aspects of the mining industry, and combine it with our overall expertise and access to technological advancements in the industry, this would greatly enhance Canada’s mining competitiveness.”
The mining industry as a whole will benefit from considerable increases in safety. Across the board, the vision for the future of mining is to move the workforce out of the mines, keep them safe and no longer risk injuries. Leaders in the industry are looking at mining centers that are operating boring machines from above the surface using automated technology, predictive maintenance and data analytics.For example, at Nutrien we are accelerating the adoption of automation technology in our sites to reduce our employees’ exposure to the mine’s cutting face. By using automated equipment that can be maneuvered into complex areas and difficult locations, mining companies can send fewer miners underground while extracting a higher output with lower risk to their employees.
How can we maximize collaboration across key stakeholders and mining industry participants to make Canadian companies as internationally competitive in the global mining industry of the future?
The mining industry is very much a collaborative environment, but at this stage, I think we are ready to do more and pool the entire sector’s expertise together to really implement world-class practices throughout the Canadian mining economy, and maximize our opportunities. We spend a fair amount of time talking with the academic world — post-secondary institutions — about what the miner of the future will look like, what the operators of the future will need to know, what skill sets are rising in demand. We do this to make sure that we are helping universities and schools shape the curricula of the future. Having a mining workforce that’s ready and able to jump in and excel within the industry will make a huge difference in our economic landscape. The mining industry assists in many ways to ensure this, from scholarships to work terms and co-ops; there is definitely a collaboration, and it should be acknowledged.
“Mining leaders need to include the expertise of the mining suppliers and services sector (MSS) in order to conduct a 360-degree consultation to improve skills and operations.”
Most importantly, mining leaders need to include the expertise of the mining suppliers and services sector (MSS) in order to conduct a 360-degree consultation to improve skills and operations.This is something all mining companies should do; bring in your suppliers and create a two-way dialogue to see if they can bring recommendations to the table that could improve operations to their highest calibre. Let’s combine our knowledge capital. One could ask, “What is the most efficient way to operate?” “What technology solutions do you suggest that could transform our mining sites?” These are questions I recommend asking, especially for mining companies that operate abroad. Canadian mining suppliers and service companies that operate in international jurisdictions have a wealth of knowledge that should be relayed back to Canada.We do what we can to showcase our suppliers to international companies to help demonstrate what Canada’s mining industry has to offer.
How can governments streamline the Canadian mining regulatory environment?
It comes down to the stability of the regulatory environment. We have had positive support from the Government of Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service in the countries in which we operate, and their continued assistance is critical to our ongoing success as we continue to grow. But for us, and I would say for any miner in Canada, we need to make sure that we have a stable and predictable regulatory and taxation regime in order to attract national and foreign investments. Mining requires multibillion-dollar investments; Nutrien, for instance, put over $10 billion into the potash mining business over the last decade so we need to make sure that we have a regulatory environment that is pro-business and that will help incubate technology and attract innovative companies that can help Canada compete in the mining industry of the future.This will increase investor confidence and nurture international relationships.
“We need to make sure that we have a regulatory environment that is pro-business and that will help incubate technology and attract innovative companies that can help Canada compete in the mining industry of the future.”
In regards to taxation, the government needs to make sure that it is committed to the long-term stability of the regimes. Large companies such as ours, will come in and invest billions of dollars if they have the assurance that the taxation landscape will not swing one way or the other. Canada’s largest potash competitors are in Russia, and our biggest importers are China, India and Brazil. These countries depend on our product to get to market at a competitive cost, so the government needs to play a role in ensuring we are competitive and productive.
My recommendation with regards to increasing the overall competitiveness of Canada’s mining industry is to establish a roundtable of people, which would include leaders from post-secondary institutions, industry leaders and government officials to strategize a plan to ensure that we are a leading mining nation.Leaders in mining need to embrace and model how to engage in and affect change. To do this, we need a combination of having the right talent for the future for mining, having a government that provides a stable regulatory and taxation environment and can also attract both traditional and innovative investments.
What are our mining infrastructure deficits and what impact can they have on growth?
Today, Canada’s infrastructure deficits challenge our supply chains. The fact of the matter is, without oil pipelines in this country, rail logistics are becoming more and more challenged, and that directly affects the mining industry. We need to see more pipelines.
“We are seeing railroads that are limited in capacity because so much of the oil transportation chain is being forced above ground.”
We are seeing great demand growth for potash, which is wonderful, but we are also seeing railroads that are limited in capacity because so much of the oil transportation chain is being forced above ground.So there needs to be a focus on all our supply chains and the modes of transportation we use to move our natural resource products. We have to solve the following dilemmas: “How are we moving product around the country?” “What is the government doing to ensure that we have ample and lean supply chain capabilities to make sure that we can get all of our products out to the global markets and make sure that we continue to compete on a global scale?”
What can be done to ensure the Canadian mining industry has the most diverse and empowered workforce possible?
Having a strong diversity inclusion strategy and a diverse workforce is key to success. Mining companies must foster strong relationships and partnerships with Indigenous groups. These can be formed around Indigenous involvement in capital programs, supplying new products and services, or working together to actually employ Indigenous youth in the company. Also, working in the communities to help them advance in terms of technology, education, health and other aspects is key.
A conversation on diversity must also include women in mining. As technological advances develop there is going to be a natural role for women that may not necessarily have wanted to work underground. There are many ways in which we can increase the number of women in mining, and the quality of roles they occupy. Mining companies must work with post-secondary educational institutions to shape their best and brightest female students, and move them into their operations. It is not only the right thing to do but it is absolutely clear that there is a direct line between company profitability and workforce diversity.
“It is not only the right thing to do but it is absolutely clear that there is a direct line between company profitability and workforce diversity.”
The conversation that must be had alongside one aimed at increasing diversity is about ensuring that our mining companies have an inclusive culture that really allows women and Indigenous employees to flourish. Companies can have diversity in their workforce and management, but if they do not have an open culture that allows for a diversity of thoughts, they are not going to get the value that this diversity brings. This is a point that really requires an organization to commit to it.
Part of the Future of Mining Series presented by: