In November 2012, the government of Canada announced that the University of British Columbia (UBC), in collaboration with Simon Fraser University (SFU) and École Polytechnic de Montreal (EPM), was the successful applicant to host a new independent international institute for extractive industries and development. It would help developing countries benefit from their natural resources in order to generate sustainable economic growth, in environmentally and socially responsible ways, thereby reducing poverty.
UBC’s research and education in the extractive sector spans nearly a century, with a strong emphasis over the past decade on sustainable development and corporate social responsibility through its Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering. SFU’s Beedie School of Business offers Canada’s longest-standing Executive MBA program for sustainable mining, and houses the Responsible Minerals Sector Initiative which fosters global dialogue for the extractives sector. EPM brings experience in building educational capacity in developing countries and expertise in environment and mine waste management, and houses the Research Center on Water Treatment for drinking water and wastewater.
To harness Canadian and international expertise in mining, oil and gas, the Institute has developed strategic partnerships with more than 60 academic institutions, non-government organizations, provincial governments, professional associations, professional service companies and mining companies. In addition, the Institute will draw on expertise available from the Canadian government through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada as well as develop strong linkages with Australia’s International Mining for Development Centre (IM4DC) and the African Minerals Development Centre, funded by Canada and the United Nations.
As a hub for Canadian and world-class expertise, the Institute has a mandate to improve and strengthen resource governance to help developing country governments meet their need for policy, legislation, regulatory development and implementation, training, technical assistance, and applied research related to their own extractive sectors.
To ensure that initiatives are responsive to local needs and country priorities, the Institute will initiate programming at the request of developing country national or regional governments. Services will be delivered through four integrated and specialized activity centres: Advisory Centre, Applied Research Centre, Engagement and Dialogue Centre and Learning and Education Centre. Working closely with developing country governments, it will draw from Canadian and international expertise in mining, oil and gas to develop programming focused through the frameworks of Governance Processes, Integrated Resource Management, and Economic Development and Diversification.
Governance processes will cover elements such as legislation, regulation, policymaking, standards development, and self-regulatory and informal market processes. Integrated resource management includes best practices in natural resource extraction and use such as ecological impact monitoring and assessment, management of water and waste, biodiversity planning, emergency preparedness and stakeholder collaboration. Economic development and diversification includes integrated national and regional planning, community and occupational health and safety, employment and business development opportunities and cultural and gender sensitivity.
The diversity of issues related to the social and political environment of extractive sectors in developing countries is broad and requires a collaborative approach that directly addresses country or region-specific issues. Wherever possible, the Institute will draw on local expertise to implement its projects, initiatives and activities. We want the best combination of professional skills and local knowledge to bridge the gap between Canadian personnel, host country authorities and relevant stakeholders.
The Institute will provide fellowships and scholarships for developing country government personnel, academics and graduate students. We believe these alumni will become key connectors, boundary-spanners and change agents who will enable ongoing transformation and sharing of knowledge far beyond the duration of any particular project, course or provision of technical assistance.
The focus for this first year is to establish our priorities and procedures so that we are solidly grounded for the important work ahead. We are also establishing the parameters for identifying priority country and regions and defining how to engage with our many strategic partners so we can put to use the wealth of knowledge and expertise available to us.
We foresee that the potential wealth gained from extractive sectors in developing countries can be optimized, shared equitably within local communities, and contribute to social and environmental health over the long-term for those most directly associated with the local mines.
Extractive sector development has the potential to be a key driver of sustainable growth in developing countries. We are eager to contribute to enhancing and strengthening resource governance in these emerging economies so that they can utilize and benefit from their extractive sectors in ways that stimulate economic growth and ultimately reduce poverty. This is a substantial undertaking and we know that there is as much to learn as there is to share from our experience.