Mining for Sustainable Development
Mining has a dirty and sometimes dark history. Mines dig deep scars in the earth and – when not properly managed – can poison groundwater and damage ecosystems.
They can be deadly to workers – and even nearby residents – when proper safety measures are not in place. Violent conflicts have been financed – or sparked – by the valuable minerals and metals extracted from mines. Communities built to support a mine can often crumble when it closes.
But there is more to mining than an ugly hole in the ground.
Mining can be a force for good, when the right people make sure the right policies are in place and enforced.
And unlike oil and gas – dirty natural resource sectors in their ‘sunset’ years – mining is also necessary to fuel the green economy.
The lithium used to replace gasoline-powered engines with batteries comes from a mine. The metal used to build a wind turbine comes from a mine. Minerals and metals are also required for the objects we rely upon every day to go to work, send our children to school and cook for our families.
The role of the IGF is to provide member countries devoted to advancing sustainable mining with the opportunity to work collectively to achieve their goals.
It is devoted to optimizing the benefits of mining to achieve poverty reduction, inclusive growth, social development and environmental stewardship.
So how can this be achieved? How can we best harvest the minerals and metals that are becoming increasingly vital to global societal needs?
On the environment side, the sector faces challenges in moving to long-term zero-impact solutions.
Current technology makes it possible for mining companies to achieve positive net benefits by working with governments and civil society to not just mitigate negative impacts but to also improve the productivity and sustainability of local environments.
This is costly in both financial outlay and the time required to fully engage with local governments and communities. Especially since there will always be some negative environmental impacts from mining. But environmental responsibility today does not end simply with minimizing these impacts. More is expected and more can, and has, been delivered.
The mining sector must also respond to the climate change challenges ahead. Shifting to clean energy sources on site is the easy, obvious solution. Especially given that this can result in a reduction in long-term operating costs. Engineering mine sites, including tailings sites, to withstand fierce weather events is the hard part.
In many ways these environmental issues are the simplest to address. The social and economic pillars of sustainable development – including a respect for the human rights of all communities – are much more complex.
Mining projects can serve as powerful levers for social and economic development efforts. Good contracts can ensure that governments have a steady stream of revenue to help finance their goals. Mines can also serve as focal points around which local communities and civil society can organize.
We will not achieve our sustainable mining goals tomorrow. But by working together, we can get there.
Message from the Chair
The IGF has grown into an institution which plays a key role on the world stage.
It is the only organization which brings together all major players in the mining sector — governments, industry and civil society – to find practical solutions to the complex challenges of sustainable development.
By facilitating an open dialogue among these competing forces, IGF has fostered mutual understanding and respect. While we do not yet have all the answers, the IGF has created an enabling environment in which we can work together to find common solutions.
Our perspectives have shifted as a result of this engagement. Industry is recognizing its responsibility to share profits and mine responsibly. Governments are recognizing that mining can be leveraged to accomplish wider goals like poverty reduction and economic development.
It’s a step by step process and we are not there yet. By sharing experiences and ideas we are working towards an understanding of how to ensure that the benefits of mining are shared not just by shareholders but by all stakeholders.
The Mining Policy Framework is a fantastic tool which can help governments achieve their goals by strengthening policies and institutions. I am very much looking forward to seeing how an upcoming MPF Assessment will help Suriname and I encourage members to request this valuable service.
IGF is also working on guidance documents which will help members expand their understanding of mining finance, such as how best to structure royalty agreements, and how to best manage the challenges and leverage the opportunities of Artisanal Small Mining (ASM).
The leadership and expertise provided by the International Institute for Sustainable Development will allow IGF to help members address one of the deepest challenges in mining today: good governance. Strong institutions are critical for achieving sustainable development.
Mining can be a force for good. Industry can help. But it is up to government to direct that force to the correct ends.
I hope, no I am convinced, that we can work together in the coming years to further strengthen IGF and ensure that this movement we have built — to work together to advance sustainable mining – is here for generations to come.