The lives of people living in countries whose economies are dependent on mining have, on average, improved faster than those of people in other countries over the past 20 years, a report by the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) has found.
The ‘Social progress in mining-dependent countries’ report, which was published on Tuesday, uses the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to determine social progress in mining-dependent countries and finds that most of those countries have significantly improved their social performance over the 20 years leading up to the launch of the goals in 2015.
People in the 25 countries that are considered mining-dependent are now generally healthier, better educated and enjoy improved access to affordable and clean energy, water and sanitation. They also enjoy access to telecommunications and financial services, ICMM says.
The report showed that people living in these countries are better off in absolute terms and that they outperform countries that are not resource dependent.
“ICMM’s experience is that, when we mine with principles, our industry can be a major development driver in some of the world’s poorest countries,” commented ICMM COO Aidan Davy.
He added that this report challenges the widely held perception that an abundance of mineral resources impedes economic and social progress. Instead, the evidence suggests that social progress in mining-dependent countries over the past 20 years has been stronger than in other countries.
“This report will help sharpen the debate about the potential development contribution of mining within the international development community.”
However, the report cautions against attributing causality between the prevalence of mining alone and observed social progress.
There are other factors at play, including government capacity and policies, quality of governance, economic activity in other sectors, and the effectiveness of social programmes run by the government, the private sector and nonprofit organisations.
The report reaffirmed the potentially important contribution the mining sector can make to shaping social progress.
The observed gaps in the social performance of mining-dependent countries could also help mining companies and other stakeholders identify priorities for engaging in productive partnerships with host governments, communities and civil society.
Of the 25 mining-dependent countries, 21 are closing the gap on best performing countries.
The Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Namibia, while making progress in absolute terms, are falling behind relative to the world’s best performers in terms of social progress.
Overall, mining-dependent countries improved on more than 78% of over 30 metrics that link to 11 of the SDGs, although results were uneven.
The report looked at the regional level in four countries: Chile, Ghana, Indonesia and Peru, and revealed that social progress at a sub-national level has been widespread. In absolute terms, mining-dependent regions advanced on three-quarters of social progress indicators.
The gap between mining-dependent and the best performing regions narrowed in all four of these countries. In Ghana, both mining-dependent regions closed the gap on best performing regions, while 93% of Peru’s and 80% of Chile’s and Indonesia’s mining-dependent regions made similar strides.