The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) has published the second and revised draft of its Standard for Responsible Mining, which it released on Tuesday for public comment and a sixty-day review.The standard would form part of a multisector effort to certify the social and environmental performance of industrial-scale mine sites. This would be the first-ever global certification programme of its kind, planned to get under way later this year.
The draft of revised standards reflected input from more than 1 400 points of comment contributed by over 70 organisations and individuals worldwide, including mining industry stakeholders and technical experts.
It also included the results from two field tests conducted by the IRMA to substantiate some of the standards. The field tests comprised mine audits in the US and Zimbabwe, which took place in October, 2015 and March, 2016.
Auditors hired by the IRMA reviewed company documentation, made first-hand observations at the mine site and conducted interviews with company representatives and other stakeholders to verify that the requirements in the standard were clear, practicable and measurable.
The draft standards were the result of ten years of collaboration between mining industry groups, organised labour, nongovernmental organisations, impacted communities and businesses.
“We believe the IRMA’s progress represents a significant step toward a global standard in responsible mining,” noted IRMA founding member Tiffany & Co chief sustainability officer Anisa Kamadoli Costa, adding that Tiffany & Co was proud to advocate for critical issues like responsible mining and that collaboration across sectors was necessary to drive systemic change.
International mining reform group Earthworks executive director Jennifer Krill agreed. “The IRMA’s value lies in the commitment by leaders from five different sectors to establish meaningful, verifiable environmental and human rights standards for mining,” she said.
Steel giant ArcelorMittal also stood behind the Standard for Responsible Mining, with corporate responsibility GM Alan Knight commenting that, while the standards were challenging and rigorous, they were possible to implement over time.
“The Standard for Responsible Mining serves as a credible multistakeholder tool to allow participating mines to differentiate themselves as leaders in environmental and social responsibility. We commend the addition of a scoring tool that allows mines at all levels to demonstrate continuing improvement in the areas of environmental and social responsibility,” he said.
Meanwhile, the IRMA noted that, with growing awareness and demand for ecologically and socially responsible products, jewellers and electronics businesses, among other end-users, were seeking assurances that the minerals they bought were mined responsibly. The Standard for Responsible Mining sought to provide these assurances, emulating for industrial-scale mine sites what had been done with certification programmes in the organic agriculture, responsible forestry and sustainable fisheries industries.
“[F]airly applied global mining standards, such as [those] outlined in the Standard for Responsible Mining, are key to helping solve labour, human rights and environmental issues at the far reaches of industry’s supply chains,” said end-user Microsoft GM Joan Krajewski, adding that collaborative initiatives like the Standard for Responsible Mining could help improve practices associated with mining metal ores at their source, which is why Microsoft worked closely with and supported the IRMA.
The Standard for Responsible Mining’s best-practice requirements for mining included elements such as health and safety for workers, human rights, community engagement, pollution control, the awareness of mining in conflict-affected areas, the rights of indigenous peoples, transparency in revenue payments from companies to governments, and land reclamation once mining is done.
Meanwhile, global trade union rights activist IndustriALL Global Union, which was also a member of the IRMA, contributed to the Standard for Responsible Mining by ensuring that the interests of working miners and communities were fully represented in the multistakeholder certification and assurance reporting system.
The IRMA noted that the final draft of the Standard for Responsible Mining would be published later this year, once the Steering Committee made revisions to the current draft following stakeholder and public feedback, due on June 5.
It added that the final documentation would cover mine sites, not mining companies, and would not certify the extraction of energy fuels, such as uranium, coal, oil or gas.
In addition to the certification process for mines that met the Standard, the IRMA said it would offer a secondary ‘candidate’ status for mine sites that met a core set of threshold requirements, as well as a scoring tool to measure continuing improvement for mines at all levels. The certification programme would be based on independent third-party verification and would seek to achieve compliance with the ISEAL Alliance Code of Good Practice for standard-setting.
The IRMA was planning a pilot phase for the first certifications in 2017 to encourage rapid learning and system improvements.