Mining and Sustainable Development: New research series released by ICMM
Posted by Jonathan Culley on 7/3/2012 1:04:42 PM
The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has launched a new research series to describe the role of mining and metals in sustainable development. The first in the series, Mining’s Contribution to Sustainable Development, was launched at the Rio+20 summit.
Sustainable development is an approach to long-term economic development.  Although different definitions exist, sustainable development generally requires that current needs are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Such an approach involves balancing economic, social, and environmental considerations. 
Mining’s Contribution to Sustainable Development provides a good overview of the mining industry as well as the various stages in the mining product life cycle. The approach to sustainable development taken is the idea that mining “should be undertaken in such a way that the activity itself and the products produced provide a net positive long-term contribution to human and ecosystem well-being” [3, p.5]. Recognizing that any individual mine will have a finite lifespan – with mine operation lasting two to 100 years – the focus is on how mining and the metals and minerals produced will contribute to sustainable development. Such an approach shifts the focus beyond simply mitigating negative impacts towards demonstrating positive results.
“Importantly, while minerals and metals provide a material foundation for contemporary society, they are also a means for transforming current society into one marked by greater efficiencies, lower environmental stresses and more effective public services”. [3, p.6]
A list of indicators shows the progress made by the industry towards greater sustainability over the last decade. Highlights include:
- Acceptance amongst leading companies of annual reporting of performance against sustainable development principles, using an independent third-party assured process
- A clear formula for avoiding the resource curse now exists and is being followed in many parts of the world although the boundaries of responsibility between companies, communities, and government remain of concern for all parties
- Support for enhanced revenue transparency through the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)
- Significant increase in human rights focus by mining companies
- Environmental management systems including protecting biodiversity and water
- Change in business approach to relationship building and creating shared value for communities, companies and governments
- Recognition of need to consider the full project life cycle through to the long post-closure period
Further papers are being released between June and December 2012 addressing the following:
The ICMM consists of 22 mining and metal companies, and 34 national and regional mining associations including the Mining Association of Canada and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC). ICMM member companies produce 30-40% of the world’s hard rock mineral commodities and employ close to 1 million workers.
1 United Nations. About the Rio+20 Conference. 2011 [cited 2012 June 29]; Available from: http://www.uncsd2012.org/about.html.
2 The World Bank Group. What is Sustainable Development. 2001 [cited 2012 June 29]; Available from: http://www.worldbank.org/depweb/english/sd.html.
3 International Council on Mining & Metals, Mining’s Contribution to Sustainable Development, 2012, ICMM.