Sustainable Development


Life without minerals, metals and metal compounds is almost impossible to imagine. Of the 92 naturally occurring elements, 70 are metals, many of which are essential to plant, animal and human life. These substances have been part of human activity since bits of copper were first hammered into simple tools in about 6000 B.C.

Today, society needs minerals and metals for ever-widening purposes. Industrial minerals such as mica are essential components of advanced industrial materials. Agriculture needs mineral-based fertilizers. Industries depend on metals for machinery and concrete for the manufacturing plants necessary for industrialization. No aircraft, automobile, computer or electrical appliance can function without metals. Electrical power supply depends on copper and aluminum. Titanium is critical for aircraft engines. A world without the silicon chip is now unimaginable. Metals will continue to contribute to the needs of future generations through new applications in the electronics, telecommunications and aerospace industries.

In Canada, the concept of sustainable development is integrated into federal government policies, programs and legislation. The Minerals and Metals Policy of the Government of Canada: Partnerships for Sustainable Development recognizes that the continued use of Canada’s mineral resource endowment must proceed within a sustainable framework.

Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments play complementary roles in the mining sector. The federal government is responsible for nuclear energy including uranium mining and the regulation of all mining activities in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut. The provincial governments own the natural resources within their jurisdiction and are responsible for policies and regulations covering all aspects of exploration for and development and extraction of mineral resources, as well as the construction, management, reclamation and closure of mine sites in their jurisdiction.

Responsibility for environmental protection and conservation is shared between both levels of government. As such, the federal, provincial and territorial governments are key partners in the sustainable development (SD) of minerals and metals.

The Minerals and Metals Sector (MMS)’s activities and partnerships provide an opportunity to demonstrate Canadian know-how and expertise in a wide range of issues related to sustainable development including the safe use of minerals and metals, life-cycle assessment, product stewardship, science-based decision-making, advances in science and technology related to mining technology, the mitigation of environmental impacts of mineral and metal development, and mine decommissioning and site reclamation.

NRCan SD Reports 

The Social Dimension of Sustainable Development and the Mining Industry (PDF, 681 kb)

Minerals and Metals: Towards a Sustainable Future (PDF, 346 kb) - The International Context section was prepared as part of the land use dialogue at the eighth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-8), April 24 to May 5, 2000.