Kumba’s Sishen, Kolomela mines achieve IRMA 75 performance on responsible mining standard

27th March 2024 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Senior Contributing Editor Online

Kumba’s Sishen, Kolomela mines achieve IRMA 75 performance on responsible mining standard

Kumba's Sishen mine has achieved the IRMA 75 level of performance.

Anglo American subsidiary Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen and Kolomela mines, in South Africa, have been assessed against the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance’s (IRMA’s) comprehensive mining standard, achieving the IRMA 75 level of performance.

The IRMA 75 achievement level means that environmental resources management certification and verification confirmed that the operations at least substantially met all 40 critical requirements of the IRMA Standard, as well as at least 75% of the standard’s criteria in each of the four principle areas: social responsibility, environmental responsibility, business integrity and planning for positive legacies.

The IRMA scoring system recognises four levels of performance: IRMA Transparency, in which a mine is third-party-assessed and publicly shares its scores; and IRMA 50, 75 or 100, signifying that a mine meets a core set of critical requirements together with at least 50%, 75% or 100% of the requirements in each of the four sections of the Standard for Responsible Mining.

As the IRMA Standard is being recognised and adopted around the world, these audits are first steps in a deepening dialogue between mining companies and those affected by their operations, the IRMA says, but cautions that, as the process is still evolving, the results should be reviewed and interpreted accordingly.

“These mines began audits during the early Covid years. Their timelines were delayed by travel challenges, and then the company’s decision to use the optional corrective action period to make improvements. The public has long awaited opportunity to review the information included here, and we applaud Anglo American for volunteering these mines for audit against such comprehensive criteria.

“That said, the IRMA Standard is relatively new for companies that volunteer to be audited and even our accredited auditors are still learning. The same is true for community members and workers who are interviewed as part of the process, some of whom may not yet feel comfortable engaging. So, the Kolomela and Sishen audits need to be read with this in mind,” explains IRMA executive director Aimee Boulanger.

The reports also provide an honest accounting of IRMA’s progress as the standard and assessment process continues to mature, the IRMA says.

“If the results don't fully reflect the experience of communities, Indigenous rights holders or other affected groups, we want to hear from them. We’ll help them communicate with the company to better understand its performance, and with the auditors on any issues they feel were overlooked in the review.

“This is a cornerstone of our own commitment to transparency. We invite anyone who has criticisms of our work to join us in making it better. Finding ways to improve is built into our system – and a measure of its success,” Boulanger avers.

The IRMA Standard is being updated this year, and the IRMA has welcomed input on how to improve this.

Meanwhile, Anglo American says Kumba’s IRMA 75 performance reflects the group’s integrated approach to sustainability and its commitment to transparency in striving for the highest levels of responsible iron-ore production.

“We are proud of our teams’ efforts and the outstanding progress made across both of our operations to promote responsible mining practices. As part of our commitment to leading in environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices, we are dedicated to delivering premium quality iron-ore products that help to reduce carbon emissions in the steelmaking process, while helping our customers meet the growing demand for responsibly sourced materials in an efficient and independently verified way.

“Through the IRMA assurance process, we have been able to evaluate our sustainability performance at Sishen and Kolomela mines, identify areas for improvement and ensure that we strive to adhere to the highest standards of responsible mining,” says Kumba CE Mpumi Zikalala.

“We are pleased that Kumba is the first iron-ore producer in Africa to complete the IRMA audit, providing stakeholders with a way of accounting for sustainability practices that is transparent, verifiable and comparable,” says Anglo American Africa and Australia regional director Themba Mkhwanazi.

“Launched last year, our digital traceability platform Valutrax is available to customers purchasing Anglo American-mined products, helping them to trace metals and minerals through a tailored selection of key provenance and sustainability indicators, including third-party assurance such as IRMA.

“The IRMA results demonstrate further progress on our Sustainable Mining Plan commitment of having all our operations undergo third-party audits against responsible mine certification standards by 2025. IRMA improves our ability to build an understanding of areas where we can continue to improve our ESG performance,” he adds.

“Through detailed IRMA audit reports, mining companies, communities and companies that purchase mined materials can gain the information they need to decide what's going well - and what may require more attention – at specific mines. The Sishen and Kolomela reports demonstrate that these mines can point to transparent, independent evaluations of their environmental and social performance,” Boulanger says.