I call to order meeting number 63 of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. We're meeting today pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) on our study of the role of the private sector in Canada in showing leadership by partnering with not-for-profit organizations to undertake local environmental initiatives.
Appearing today by video conference from Toronto, from Agnico Eagle Mines Limited, we have Louise Grondin, senior vice-president, and by video conference from Calgary, Alberta, from Suncor Energy Inc., Arlene Strom, vice-president, sustainability and communications.
We will begin with 10-minute opening statements from each of you.
We will begin with Louise Grondin, senior vice-president of Agnico Eagle Mines Limited, for a 10-minute opening statement. Immediately following that, we will have Arlene Strom.
Ms. Grondin, please proceed.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. Thank you for this opportunity to talk about local environmental initiatives that we have undertaken in Canada in partnership with not-for-profit organizations.
Agnico Eagle is a Canadian gold mining company that has been producing precious metals since 1957. We operate eight mines in Canada, mainly in Quebec and Nunavut, as well as in Mexico and Finland, and we employ more than 6,200 people worldwide.
Let's talk first about some of our initiatives in Nunavut.
Our operating mine in Nunavut, the Meadowbank mine, is located 110 kilometres from the hamlet of Baker Lake in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. We've been operating the mine since 2010, providing employment to about 280 Inuit workers from the region, or about 35% of our workforce. Since start-up, the mine has provided over $80 million in wages and $940 million in supply contracts with Nunavut-based companies.
Since the mine's opening, Meadowbank has undertaken environmental initiatives in the area of waste and wildlife management. The stakeholders we've been partnering with in the region are the local hamlet of Baker Lake, the Government of Nunavut's environmental department, and universities.
Nunavut is a remote territory and has no local facility to deal with hazardous waste or waste recycling. This makes waste management more complex for both the Meadowbank mine and the nearby hamlet of Baker Lake. A few initiatives were undertaken by Agnico Eagle in cooperation with Baker Lake in the area of waste management.
We were asked by the Hamlet of Baker Lake for help in addressing how they could better manage hazardous waste accumulating at their municipal landfill site. These accumulated wastes had no form of containment. We brought in an external Nunavut-based environmental company, which worked with the hamlet to sort through this material, remove it from the landfill, place it in appropriate packaging, and load it into shipping containers that we then shipped to licenced waste-handling facilities in the south. A total of 25 containers were prepared for shipment during the 2011 shipping season.
In addition, an old landfill in Baker Lake had been closed for over 20 years but was still used to store used barrels, obsolete heavy equipment, scrap metal, and used tires, which were strewn around the site. We endeavoured to work with the hamlet to clean up all this material and return the land as close as possible to its original state. A total of 354 tonnes of scrap metal and 94 tonnes of old tires were recovered and shipped from Baker Lake to Bécancour, Quebec, during the annual sealift in 2011, to be safely disposed of at licensed recycling companies in southern Canada. Over a three-week period, Agnico staff, with the help of five local members, diligently restored the site. The program cost Agnico Eagle an estimated $75,000.
In 2014 the Meadowbank employee environmental committee undertook an initiative to recycle wood pallets with the community of Baker Lake. Meadowbank already sorts its materials before disposal. Hazardous materials and metal are separated and shipped south each year for proper disposal or reuse. It became obvious that wooden pallets could also be reused. Instead of being sent to landfill for disposal, used pallets that are clean and free from contamination are now collected and taken to the community. One major user is the local high school shop class, where the teacher plans projects for students to learn woodworking skills and produce usable items such as sheds and sleds. In 2014 more than 500 pallets were saved from the landfill and reused.
Nunavut is a huge territory, and it is difficult for the Government of Nunavut to gather data to help in their wildlife management. Agnico Eagle has helped in the area of caribou migration tracking, raptor protection, and aquatic life monitoring. We believe that increased understanding of terrestrial and aquatic life in Nunavut will help minimize the effects of project development.
For the past decade, there has been much debate about the reliability of information about migration patterns and herd ranges of barren land caribou populations, particularly the status of the Beverly caribou herd. In 2009, the population was reported to have sharply declined. Elders held the belief that the population had rather likely shifted its calving grounds to the north. We began participating in the caribou collaring and satellite tracking program in 2008. The program involves the mining industry, caribou management boards, and the Government of Nunavut Department of Environment. The tracking information gathered to date indicates that the Beverly caribou herd has indeed shifted its calving grounds from the central barrens near Baker Lake to the coastal regions around Queen Maud Gulf.
To date Meadowbank has funded the deployment of 25 caribou collars for a cost of over $250,000. In 2011 Meadowbank contributed an additional $35,000 to estimate the number of breeding females in the Beverly herd. In 2013 we committed to an additional three-year contribution in support of the regional caribou monitoring program.
We also work closely with the University of Guelph to improve aquatic monitoring methods and to inform future aquatic ecology research in the north. Furthermore, we've worked on refining current methods of evaluating fish habitat and productivity of a fishery with consultants and academic researchers and provided our raw fish out data and habitat mapping to DFO scientists. At the regional level the data and tools used at Meadowbank are currently being applied by Agnico Eagle and other consultants at other proposed projects in Nunavut. We believe that these improvements in understanding of aquatic ecology will help future management of the resource.
Agnico Eagle has also been working with the University of Alberta and a local group of wildlife experts based in Rankin Inlet on site-specific protective measures for raptors at Meadowbank. We are also working to extend terrestrial modelling to include linkages to aquatic food webs, which will also assist to inform productivity models.
The raptors and fisheries researchers are training future master's students and local field assistants while collecting valuable monitoring data.
I will now move to environmental initiatives in the Abitibi region where we own and operate three mines and are in a joint partnership for the operation of a fourth mine. Our partners in that region are the Quebec Ministry of Forest, Wildlife and Parks, the Val-d'Or hunting and fishing organization, our local cottagers' association, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Mining and Environment Research Institute.
In 2014 the Quebec Ministry of Forest, Wildlife and Parks with the assistance of the Val-D'or hunting and fishing association, the Sabourin Lake cottagers' association, Agnico Eagle, and other stakeholders launched a program aimed at protecting the woodland caribou herd in the Val-D'or area of Quebec. The Val-d'Or woodland caribou herd was down to 20 individuals. Inventories of recent years indicated a high mortality rate among calves, whose survival is crucial to maintaining and increasing the herd.
The program aimed at capturing pregnant females to protect them during the calving period but also to protect calves during their first weeks of life, when they are most vulnerable to predators. Calves born in May and June are kept in an enclosure with their mother and monitored until early in July before being released into their natural habitat. This pilot project was supervised by biologists and veterinarians specialized in the management of large mammals. Such work has already been carried out successfully elsewhere, including in the Yukon. Collaboration was built with the Yukon team and resulted in the active participation of a Yukon veterinarian in the 2014 campaign.
The program shows promising results. The first-born calf of the 2015 campaign is already up and about following his mother, and two weeks ago we had a second birth with a third on the way.
Now I'd like to talk about our partnership to rehabilitate an orphaned tailings site. In 2004 we were looking for potential locations for a future tailings impoundment for the Goldex mine in Val-D'or. The Goldex material was chemically inert and had neutralization potential. We partnered with the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources to use this material to rehabilitate the acid-generating orphaned Manitou tailings site that had been contaminating the Bourlamaque River for decades. Rehabilitation started in 2008 with the start-up of the mine and is now more than 50% completed.
The Mining and the Environment Research Institute is also involved in this project. Overall, this cooperation will save taxpayers' money, reduce the footprint of the Goldex mine, and resolve an environmental problem.
This concludes my remarks. I thank you once again for the opportunity to appear before the committee today, and I would be pleased to answer your questions.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent Suncor today. Although I'm sure you're familiar with Suncor, I thought I'd start with just a brief summary of our company.
We're Canada's leading integrated energy company. We employ about 13,000 Canadians. We work from coast to coast. We also work closely and have business relationships with about 150 first nations and aboriginal communities across Canada. Our operations include, of course, our oil sands development and upgrading in northern Alberta, as well as conventional and offshore oil and gas production. We own and operate refineries in Edmonton, Sarnia, and Montreal. We also have a lubricants plant in Mississauga. We're active in renewable energy. We have interests in seven wind farms, and in Sarnia we operate the largest ethanol facility in Canada. Of course, many Canadians know us from our gas stations. We have almost 1,500 Petro-Canada stations across Canada.
We're guided in our operations by our vision. We seek to be trusted stewards of valuable natural resources. It's core to our business. We're guided by our vision of sustainability. We seek economic prosperity, social well-being, and a healthy environment for today and tomorrow.
We have a long history, of course, in the oil sands. We've been a pioneer there. The nature of that business has called for not just economic investment but real social innovation and investment in our environment over the years. I think our success is really rooted, though, in our topic today—collaboration and partnerships in the communities where we operate. We all know about the complex environment we're operating in today. It's increasingly polarized. With increasing concern over infrastructure, and concern about climate change and our relationship with indigenous communities, I think the imperative for collaboration and developing partnerships becomes even more important.
I can't talk about collaboration without mentioning Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. This is where we came together as a founding member several years ago with 13 other oil and gas companies to work together on improving environmental performance. We felt it was too important to compete in this area. We're very proud today that we have already shared $1 billion worth of intellectual property, best practices, and technologies. In fact, 750 technologies have already been shared. We're working hard on tailings, water, land, and GHG, and improving performance in those areas.
I thought I'd give a few examples of some of our collaborative partnerships in the environment. One in Alberta that we're just starting, really, is with The Natural Step and Energy Futures Lab in Alberta. It's convened by Natural Step, but together with the Pembina Institute, the Banff Centre, and Suncor Energy Foundation, we are bringing together a diverse group of individuals from academia, from government, from industry, and from the environment, and some of the young leaders in Alberta to talk about what kind of energy future we want in Alberta and to think about the policy implications and the implications for the very social fabric of our communities.
We are also a sponsor of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, which brought together economists from across the country, together with an advisory council with a broad spectrum of people from different political associations, academia, business, and environment to align on Canada's economic and environmental aspirations.
We've also had long-time partnerships with folks like the Pembina Institute. We have worked together with them on water, land, GHG issues, offset issues, and many different issues over the years.
Going back to 2003, we're a founding member of the Boreal Leadership Council. We're proud of the work we've done there. It's been a collaboration with first nations, resource companies, financial institutions, and leading conservation groups. We're a signatory to the boreal forest conservation framework, which calls for the establishment of a network of large interconnected protected areas covering about half of the country's boreal forest.
Together with that partnership, we've worked with the Alberta Conservation Association. Since 2003 we have worked to set aside and protect about 3,200 hectares in Alberta's boreal forest. We've committed $4 million to that conservation effort over the years.
I also want to mention just a few of our other collaborative organizations, where we're active in communities. One is the Oil Sands Community Alliance, which is focused on socio-economic impacts in northern Alberta. We've also been actively involved in Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo, which helps to build capacity in the non-profit sector.
We've partnered with other companies and first nations communities in the Fort Chipewyan and Janvier communities on the sustainable communities initiative. There, we're working with youth in those communities to explore safe, healthy, and sustainable communities. A lot of that is around traditional education and helping to empower and build capacity within those youth communities.
We're very proud of the work we've done with aboriginal communities. In 2014 alone, we spent over $450 million with aboriginal businesses, but we engage with many different advisory groups on many different issues. We've actually incorporated feedback from the aboriginal communities into our winter drilling program to help make it more successful and sustainable.
We've also worked with the Tsuu T'ina Nation on a business incubator program. We've been helping to build sustaining business capacity within that community. In fact, recently we celebrated an evening where there were over 72 businesses represented that had worked through that business incubator.
We're also involved in cultural awareness and healing. One of the organizations that we are proud to work with is Reconciliation Canada.
Finally, in our investments in partnerships that create opportunities for aboriginal young people, we're very proud to partner with Indspire. I want to thank the federal government for their recent matching of $10 million. Our CEO Steve Williams co-chaired that fundraising campaign for their Building Brighter Futures effort.
I'll probably leave it there. Our partnerships are foundational to our success, and I welcome the conversation we're about to have. I think our greatest learning over time is that community partnership goes way beyond just the dollar investment. We really believe it's important to come together with government, industry, and community to create those collective purposes and work on achieving those solutions together. I like the African proverb: if you want to go fast, go alone, and if you want to go far, go with others.
Thank you for this opportunity.
Yes, we have implemented the TSM initiative of the Mining Association of Canada in all our divisions. In fact, in 2015 we went through a first external audit. In that initiative there is a community outreach protocol. We have grievance mechanisms and we need to consult our Inuit partners.
But you know, I think we've gone way beyond that. In Nunavut, when you start the environmental assessment process, you need to gather traditional knowledge. The Inuit have been occupying the territory for thousands and thousands of years, so they know a lot more than we do just coming in. We were talking to our Inuit partners a long time before we had anything done there, and before we did the baseline study. In fact, we hired them to do the baseline study. We also gathered traditional knowledge.
We had Inuit workers who we needed to train, so we went into the communities. We needed to explain mining to them, because Baker Lake had never seen a mine before. We had community tours to show the mine to them once it was built. We still have them once a month. People from the communities are free to come in.
We've done a lot of culturally sensitive things. Some of the Inuit have never had a job before; some of them certainly have never had a job in an industrial complex. They sometimes feel a bit alone, so once a month we bring in elders from our surrounding communities to spend two or three days at the site. Elders in Nunavut are very respected, and their opinion and their counsel are sought.
So in terms of what we're trying to create, we're being good neighbours and at the same time good employers. Really, the mine site is a village—a big village that's 35% Inuit.
Thank you to both of our guests today for giving us such interesting information to discuss this morning.
I wanted to thank you, Ms. Strom, for the work that Suncor does in engaging stakeholders in the community. In particular, I wanted to highlight, if you'll allow me, some of the community initiatives undertaken in my own local area of Mississauga. You mentioned earlier that the Suncor lubricants facility is located there. Actually, that's in my riding, near the waterfront. In fact, the plant shares land with Mississauga Bradley House Museum. It's my understanding that this unique relationship has led to a partnership with the Friends of the Museums of Mississauga. Suncor has made an investment in the community with about 1,000 high-risk students who study at the museum's site with a curriculum-based program that allows them to learn about daily life in the 1800s.
The way I see it, this kind of community engagement is important to that triple-e bottom line that's so often talked about, so I wanted to thank you for that.
I also wanted to know if you have any knowledge of the partnership with the Riverwood Conservancy, also in Mississauga. It's a large urban park in Mississauga. Suncor partners with Riverwood on a secondary school field science program called, Exploration Naturally. It's okay if you don't know about it, but if you do, I was hoping you could tell us a bit about it.
I'm going to give you an example of two specific engagements that we've had that involve many of our community partners.
In the fall of 2013, we invited many of our community partners together to come to Calgary. Actually, we invited them during the Calgary flood and we had to adjust our timing a bit. In any event, we had this gathering of community partners and academics. It included environmentalists and first nations organizations, with many of our partners brought together to focus on several areas. One was our energy future, which obviously involves environmental issues, but also aboriginal youth and building leadership capacity.
Together, what we found is that by bringing these folks together they made connections. They were able to work together with new partnerships, so we were facilitating this new network. Then we went away and worked in new groups and new networks to solve these problems together.
In 2014, we came together again and were a bit more focused, but we also invited aboriginal youth to come to express directly to us some of their concerns. One of the wonderful epiphanies that we had at that session was this wonderful young aboriginal woman who spoke to us and said, “You come to us and say, 'How can we help you?'; you should also be coming to us and saying, 'What can we do for you?'” It was about that reciprocal arrangement and how we can work together. We continue to work with the folks in those networks and it's been very powerful.