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WWF Calls on Corporates to Implement Credible Mining Certification

WWF Germany recently published a report, Boom in Raw Materials: Between Profits and Losses, which offers one of the first concrete rebuttals from a major environmental group against the notion that industry actions alone are enough to move the global industrial mining sector towards greater responsibility.

Focusing on the steel and aluminum sectors in particular, the authors urge that “there is a pressing need to adopt global strategies to manage the environmental impacts associated with mining activities.” They further go on to say that in terms of the global mining industry, and in a WWF analysis of the 50+ largest mining and metal companies and commodity associations, that “even the best of the best companies in the mining and metal industry have lagged behind on implementation, monitoring, reporting and ensuring consequences for non-compliance.” In addition, they make it clear that investors and policy makers must also respond, since mining regulations are often quite limited or even non-existent in some countries.

The report calls out multinational mining company Anglo American for its stronger work on practices such as mine closure, with an example of its turning mine sites in Australia to wind farms and jatropha production for clean energy production. Industry-led tools such as the International Council on Mining and Minerals’ (ICCM) mine closure toolkit was mentioned as a positive step on that particular topic, but one that the WWF authors find limiting since its tools are non-binding for ICMM members — the 25 largest mining and metals companies globally — and that “without verification, there is a risk that companies may cut corners, especially in countries without agreed standards, capacity and scrutiny.”

Overall the report says companies need to take the following actions:

  • Identify their risks and impacts related to mining and metals, and seek strategies with a range of stakeholders including NGOs.
  • Demand supply chain due diligence from their suppliers to uphold credible mining standards.
  • Implement credible certification at the mine site level.

In the sections of the report calling for corporate action, the authors point primarily to the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) as a credible, multi-stakeholder-driven option for assurance of more responsible industrial mining at the mine site level, and for all mined materials (except for energy fuels, which IRMA does not cover). IRMA was cited throughout the report as it is the only current certification system that offers a comprehensive standard offering one-stop coverage of the full range of environmental and social issues related to the impacts of industrial-scale mines. IRMA’s Standard for Responsible Mining, launched earlier this year, describes ‘best practice’ for mines globally and also encourages mines at any level to come in and be recognized for continuing improvement.

WWF has cited IRMA for its equitable governance shared by civil society alongside the private sector. IRMA’s Steering Committee includes Tiffany & Co., Microsoft, Anglo American and ArcelorMittal, as well as representatives of mining-affected communities; labor unions such as the United Steelworkers; and NGOs including Human Rights Watch and Earthworks.

The new industry scheme, Responsible Steel, was also cited as a promising new initiative working with multiple stakeholders and collaborating with other certifications, including IRMA, at the mine site level.

Overall, WWF is calling for companies in the electronics, auto, building and other sectors, and especially consumer-facing brands (even if they are not buying directly from the mine sites) to reach back through their supply chains to ensure their purchasing dollars for mined materials reflect their commitment to social and environmental responsibility.