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SGX Mine administration office building on the shores of the Guxian Reservoir

By: Peter Krauth


  • Mining companies are focusing on decreasing their environmental footprint

  • Silvercorp Metals is a leader in protecting the environment and its workers

  • The company’s mindset has translated into growing profits while doing things sustainably

Environmental responsibility has become the new reality. 

As the planet’s population grows, and billions more access the ranks of the middle class, it is both critical and inevitable to focus on how to accommodate the billions of people on the planet, sustainably.

What’s more, respect for the environment has long surpassed being “trendy.” Today, it’s a necessity.

Clean land, water and air are all fundamental to healthy living, so governments are enacting legislation to ensure everyone does their part. However, industries must also do their part and even become proactive in this regard.

Growing worldwide demand for commodities is no justification for the irresponsible extraction of natural resources. Although laws are in place to ensure better treatment of the environment, most of the responsibility ultimately falls on mining companies themselves who have historically been given a bad reputation when it comes to environmental damage.

As consumers become increasingly sensitive to the ethical sourcing of raw materials, the more demanding they become of producers.

Whistleblowers have a role to play, shining a spotlight on unregulated mines, dangerous work conditions, and increased greenhouse gas emissions. However, it’s not only about being a leader and staying ahead of the curve, but it’s also about simply doing the right thing.

“We are working very hard to bring and enforce North American environmental and safety standards to our mines in China, often exceeding requirements.” — Derek Liu, Chief Financial Officer, Silvercorp Metals Inc.

Silvercorp is committed to reducing pollution and protecting the environment

One silver and base metals miner is working to change the narrative when it comes to elevating mining practices to be more environmentally sustainable. Silvercorp Metals Inc. (TSX/NYSE American: SVM) is a profitable, silver-producing Canadian mining company — and they’ve wholeheartedly embraced the mindset, particularly in China, of upholding high safety and environmental standards, as well as supporting local community initiatives, with all of their mines located there.

At all levels, Silvercorp’s philosophy prioritizes ecological and environmental protection, as well as ensuring a safe workplace for all employees and contractors.

These values set Silvercorp apart from its peers, making it a company that genuinely talks the talk and walks the walk. 

When it comes to protecting the environment, the company puts mother nature first. Silvercorp operates a zero-discharge mill with an integrated tailings dam. They’ve built a tunnel to mitigate risks of environmental damage from flooding, and they have a water spraying program to limit dust as well as having a dust collection system at their Ying crushing plant.

Local government officials monitor water quality, and a three-stage settling pond treats wastewater to Class II standards, which are acceptable for discharge into the environment.

In April this year, Silvercorp was selected to host a press tour by 26 leading Chinese journalists at its Ying Mining District in Henan Province, China. The province’s Natural Resources Department organized the event to showcase the company’s achievements in environmental respect, social responsibility and governance at its mines.
Ying Tailings management facility (TMF)

Since 2017, Silvercorp has invested millions of dollars in reducing geological hazards and protecting the surrounding environment. This includes land reclamation, environmental restoration, treatment projects, and the reforestation of more than 200,000 square metres. 

“In 2015, Silvercorp’s SGX (Yuelianggou) lead-zinc-silver mine was recognized as “The National Green Mine,” one of the earliest mines in China to achieve such recognition.” – Derek Liu, Chief Financial Officer, Silvercorp Metals Inc.

In 2017, the company completed a 16.5 km mine water drainage pipe to collect and treat mine water, then recycle it back to the mill. A biological and artificial wetland treatment system treats domestic sewage.
Mill surrounded by farming activity

Workers are top priority thanks to ongoing training, oversight, and innovative management

When it comes to employee safety, the company leaves nothing to chance. Silvercorp has a superintendent responsible for safety, as well as a team of 20 providing education and oversight for the labour force. New workers receive initial training, then benefit from ongoing programs. All of this effort has been fruitful; the local government sees Silvercorp as a model mining company thanks to its excellent safety record.

Commenting on the company’s commitment to safety, Derek Liu says, “Mining contractors are also required to meet our standards. They must assign one safety coordinator per 21 workers, in addition to Silvercorp’s safety coordinators. They represent almost five per cent of the workforce.”

Silvercorp’s innovative mindset led to the implementation of the Enterprise Blog system nearly four years ago. This system improves mine production and safety information and also simplifies the distribution of workflow knowledge securely and transparently.

In a nutshell, here’s how the Enterprise Blog works: mining stopes, development faces and equipment are all assigned a blog name. Engineers and other technicians responsible for specific stopes or faces must publish the daily results of their onsite activities on their blogs. The data is organized in a checklist table, along with the required supporting photos. Managers at various levels have access to the daily blog for each workplace to review its status. At the same time, the Enterprise Blog records which managers have accessed the blog to view or comment on the daily results for which they are responsible.

Content examples from Silvercorp’s enterprise blog

The information that is collected, distributed, retrieved and monitored through the Enterprise Blog is both transparent and immediate. Managers have easy access to crucial data collected by frontline employees. However, they are also incentivized to use that information to make more accurate and timely decisions and impart those decisions accordingly.

As it turns out, this innovation to improve mine safety has also led to better results. Within months following the implementation of the internal Enterprise Blog, Silvercorp noted a significant improvement in the head grades of silver, lead and zinc.

In the wake of that success, during the year ended March 31, 2019, the company invested $1 million in an online, real-time, monitoring GPS system to further the goal of creating an “intelligent mine.”

Silvercorp takes its responsibility towards social governance very seriously. They make meaningful investments to protect the environment and ensure workplace safety, which is what makes the company an exemplary silver and base metals miner, producing healthy and sustainable returns to all stakeholders.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.