CIMVTL21 embraces and engages digital platform for this year's online conference and expo

May 3, 2021

by Margo Ellis, associate editor

CIMVTL21 Convention & Expo, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum’s premiere annual conference, began today, May 3, and continues with more than 150 sessions through May 6 as an online event. Focused on the timely theme of “resilient and thriving together in a changing world,” opening remarks were made by CIM chief executive officer Angela Hamlyn, honorary conference chair William Harvey, president and current CIM president Samantha Espley to mark the plenary session that included a lineup of industry leaders:

  • Jody Kuzendo, president and chief executive officer, Torex Gold.
  • David Cataford, president and chief executive officer, Champion Iron Ltd.
  • Denise Johnson, group president, Caterpillar.
  • Mark Cutifani, chief executive, Anglo American Plc.

Jerrod Downey, president, Crownsmen Partners, served as moderator and led a discussion that delved into all the pressing and pertinent topics: Aforementioned resiliency and thriving, particularly in the face of a global pandemic; environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues; diversity and inclusion in the industry; adaptation challenges and, more broadly, how mining can meet this moment and the future with a growing need and demand as the world’s population steadily climbs.

Starting off the discussion, Jody Kuzendo with Torex Gold noted that as we mark 16 months into this pandemic that has made an indelible mark on the world, she and her team have focused on “building back better,” citing examples of how Torex has integrated into the small communities surrounding the mine’s remote site in Mexico by building homes, schools, churches and medical clinics where a full 45 percent of the workforce lives nearby. In citing a fitting quote by author Susan Eggers, “Resiliency is the ability to face challenges and emerge from those challenges more energized, more elevated and more equipped for what’s next,” Kuzendo tied the sentiment to how her team has approached 2020. Prioritizing the health and safety of the workforce and host communities, followed by a continued focus on producing at the mine, in the fourth quarter of 2020, Torex Gold marked 10 million hours of zero lost-time injury rate.

Other topics Kazendo touched on include climate change concerns and inexplicable gender disparity in the industry and linking it to the growing need for mining-related workers — about 100,000 over the next 10 years in Canada alone — to meet the sector’s labor requirements. Yet in the face of this demand, the gender gap at all levels of the industry still exists as women continue to be underrepresented.

The next speaker, David Cataford from Champion Iron, discussed the company’s focus and efforts over the years to work closely with host communities, particularly in the relatively remote and small location of Fermont, Quebec, Canada, and noted that even small and unsolicited initiatives have lasting effect and building strong community ties. In the midst of COVID-19, Champion Iron implemented a testing lab, implementing infrastructure, hiring specialists and obtained permits. Cataford said an approach of resourcefulness and adaptability was key to their success and tapping into the workforce’s internal skill sets proved to be very successful.

With climate change concerns at the forefront, Cataford and his team “converted everything possible from diesel or heavy oils into hydroelectric power that allowed us to reduce emissions by 40 percent.”

From the OEM side and bringing the focus to safety and well-being through a new lens, Denise Johnson spoke about Caterpillar’s response to COVID-19 and thinking differently and being nimble. “For us, safety has become a much broader conversation and while we have been traditionally been very focused on the physical safety of our employees and on the equipment we build … the pandemic brought topics of mental wellness to the forefront.” Caterpillar provides tools to broaden how safety is discussed and launched a “Building a better you” campaign intended to remove the stigma of mental health issues and actively engaging with employees during a time of such stress. “Our goal was to make sure that our employees felt cared for,” Johnson said.

She also covered issues related to technology (virtual training, remote software updates, expanding focus, frequent and urgent conversations, improving the workplace, getting people out of harm’s way, automation) and how prominent a topic it became over the past year. We asked our customers, “How do we do it faster and better than we have the traditional way?”

With similar urgency and importance, Johnson talked about ESG challenges and how they’ve accelerated R&D timelines for Caterpillar internally. While there’s no single solution that fits every mine site, Caterpillar is working diligently to create advanced power sources for customers using renewable energy to support the ecosystem of the future that’s been brought about by climate change.

The final speaker of the opening session, Mark Cutifani of Anglo American and with more than 40 years in the industry, brought the conversation back to the broader topic of the role of mining in society. “With our global population approaching nine billion, the one simple fact is the world cannot survive as it is without mining and without our contribution to literally every aspect of modern life,” Cutifani observed, “but we are still seen as an industry that takes more than it gives.” With mining supporting industries such as the energy sector, food production, construction, transportation, renewables, infrastructure and communication, Cutifiani pointed out that about 45 percent of the world’s economic activity is driven by the mining sector. And with more figures to tell the story, Cutifani drew the stark comparison that roughly 50 percent of the world’s global habitable land is used for agriculture while just 0.04 percent of the earth’s land is used for mining — a small footprint that indicates “we don’t tell our story well.”

At Anglo American, ESG targets center around three pillars, he said: promoting a healthy environment, creating thriving communities and being a trusted corporate leader. But in looking at the whole, Cutifani said mining needs to shift away from being seen as an industry that digs holes. In 2018, Anglo American redefined itself as a metals and minerals company and looking forward, will talk about being a materials solution company through the lens of how our customers view them. He wrapped up with this thought, “The difference we make in society can be significant and part of a much broader tapestry we take on as an industry to describe what we do and how critical we are the key to decarbonization and creating a long-term sustainable planet.”

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