(Left to right) Moderator Robin Stickley, with panelists Shelby Yee, Jim Gowans, Joseph Cavatoni and Michelle Edwards. Photo: Jon Benjamin Photography

Discussions during CIM Connect’s General Panel Session on May 15 zeroed in on the future of mining, with a focus on shifting perceptions of the mining industry, environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in Canada, and women in mining. The session was moderated by journalist Robin Stickley, and panelists for this session included Joseph Cavatoni, North America market strategist for the World Gold Council, Jim Gowans, corporate director at Cameco, Titan Mining, Treasury Metals and Premium Nickel, Shelby Yee, co-founder and chief executive officer of RockMass Technologies, and Michelle Edwards, senior corporate director of people at Agnico Eagle Mines Limited.  

Gowans began by sharing his excitement about the future of the industry, especially in seeing how mining technology has improved throughout the years. He explained that although remarkable advancements in technology have happened in the last few decades, the industry can expect to see more integration of new technologies as we [discover] different minerals.He pointed out that while mining is perceived by some as being a small and dirty industry, this isn't the case, and that it is connected to everything. 

Stickley turned the attention over to ESG in mining, asking the panelists how they have seen these standards change the industry. The change has already started, remarked Gowans, adding that ESG was not something that was focused on in the past as much as it is now.  

Edwards noted that conversations around ESG are much different today compared to 10 years prior. I think it has certainly changed, the type of conversations around inclusion, partnerships and local communities,she said. She added that today there is also more of a focus on reaching equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) targets, unlike in the past.

Cavatoni noted that the industry is still struggling to apply ESG standards to the metal or mineral itself but did praise the success the industry has had surrounding implementing and measuring ESG metrics.  

The conversation turned over to the theme of women in mining, with Yee stating that mining companies should aim to focus more on the retention of female workers as opposed to focusing solely on recruitment. Edwards agreed, noting that there is still a long way to go when it comes to attracting women to the industry. We need to see more women in leadership positions,she added.  

A question was posed from an audience member near the end of the session, which asked why women choose to leave the industry. Edwards touched on the fact that women must work harder in order to achieve the same level of recognition as their male counterparts.  

In a related discussion, Edwards explained that conversations centred on balancing a career and family life need to be had more frequently to retain women, even if these conversations may be awkward for some to have. It would be great if we get to the stage where we can have [these] conversations very openly,” she said.