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Discussing global sustainability issues


Mining’s contribution to sustainable development at Rio+20

By Katherine E Welch, on 10 July 2012

ICMM hosts a session at Rio +20

In this special guest blog, John Drexhage, Director of Climate Change at the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), reflects on ICMM’s contribution to the Rio +20 convention and the role of the mining sector in a low carbon economy:

ICMM and its members played an active and engaged role at the recent Rio+20 conference to ensure the role of the mining and metals industry in contributing to sustainable development was recognized both now and in the future. By participating in and co-sponsoring a variety of events across the week, the mining and metals sector was seen to be present and involved at this high profile conference on sustainable development and “The Future We Want”. Most importantly, it provided the opportunity to engage with others to debate our role in addressing sustainable development challenges.

To support its presence and intentions, ICMM launched the first three in a series of seven publications that describe mining and metals’ contribution to sustainable development. The series seeks to set out some of the more important benefits, costs, risks and responsibilities related to mining and metals in today’s world.

The first publication provides an introduction to the series and introduces the concept of contribution analysis while the next two papers focus on the role of minerals and metals in a low carbon economy and human rights, social development and the mining and metals industry.

Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland introduced the series at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) Fair Ideas event, representing ICMM on a panel titled ‘Business models for sustainable development’. ICMM also co-hosted a session titled ‘Reflecting on a decade of mining, minerals and sustainable development’. That session saw IIED share the findings of its review on the changes, achievements and challenges in the mining and metals sector over the past ten years since the publication of the landmark report, Breaking New Ground.

ICMM held a further two sessions at the BASD Business Day, the morning session focused on some of the ways in which the materials sector is contributing to sustainable development and was well attended by over 150 participants. The afternoon session centred on the theme of governance and panellists provided a variety of examples of successful public-private partnerships.

It was not just ICMM that played an active role over the course of the conference. Our members were particularly involved including Rio+20 official sponsors Vale with CEO Murilo Ferreira speaking at the opening plenary of Business Day. Strong participation was also seen from Anglo American, Gold Fields, Norsk Hydro, BHP Billiton, Codelco and Teck.

In addition to the various events, ICMM attended the final negotiations to communicate the contribution of mining to sustainable development and a low carbon economy, and enhance the effectiveness of public-private sector partnerships necessary to maximize this contribution. In echoing many other industry and NGO viewpoints, ICMM felt the final outcome document fell short on commitments.

However, negatives aside, the document has the potential to provide a platform for strong private sector investment due to the focus placed on enabling environments throughout the text, for example:

  • • the section on mining calls for strong and effective legal and regulatory national frameworks that work to deliver economic prosperity and safeguard the environment
  • • ‘energy access for all’ included the entire remit of energy sources and not just traditional renewables as has been seen in the past
  • • the text called for sound chemicals management policies and practices aligned around the UN’s Strategic Approach to Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the call for greater co-ordination among the other chemicals conventions can be seen as a positive outcome
  • • the document reaffirmed the relevance of the Marrakesh process in creating 10 year Framework Programs toward building more sustainable consumption and production.

While the text is replete with references to the private sector and its role in financing and implementing the sustainable development agenda, it does lack reflection on the governance implications of such financing and implementation in these processes.

The post-Rio +20 agenda will be focusing on sustainable development goals to be led by a steering group of 30 countries and with the ‘full participation’ of all major groups in the process.  Little has been defined yet in terms of scope or even framework, but there are definite possibilities that pressure will build for more ‘concrete targets’ for each sector, including the mining and metals industry.

About ICMM

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) was established in 2001 to improve sustainable development performance in the mining and metals industry. Today, it brings together 22 mining and metals companies as well as 34 national and regional mining associations and global commodity associations.

More information on the ICMM and its work can be found at www.icmm.com

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