Precedent-Setting International Standard for Responsible Mining Released

Draft standard released today backed by members of multiple sectors including mining, labour, NGOs, affected communities and downstream users/businesses 

TORONTO, July 22, 2014 /CNW/ - The United Steelworkers (USW) is pleased to support today's release of a proposed international Standard for Responsible Mining.

The draft standard is being released for public comment by the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA). IRMA includes stakeholders from the mining industry, organized labour, nongovernmental organizations, affected communities and businesses. The USW serves on the IRMA steering committee. 

The proposed Standard for Responsible Mining is a set of principles to improve social and environmental performance and is the result of eight years of collaboration between groups that have historically been at odds. It seeks to emulate for industrial-scale mine sites what has been done with certification schemes in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. 

"Each of us wants a future where mining companies make a positive contribution to local communities and minimize any impact on land and water, while serving the needs of modern society," said Jon Samuel, Group Head of Government and Social Affairs at international mining company Anglo American. "Though we don't always see eye to eye on every issue, IRMA has developed a draft set of leading edge practices and a new definition of more responsible mining."

"As Canada's mining union, we are proud of our contributions and that of IndustriALL Global Union, a global union federation to which we are affiliated," said Ken Neumann, USW National Director.

"This is a joint effort to develop a credible multi-stakeholder certification and assurance reporting system for the mining industry which is responsive to the urgent challenges of sustainable development," said Glen Mpufane, Mining Director at IndustriALL and a former underground miner from South Africa.

While IRMA's Steering Committee has confidence that the draft Standard for Responsible Mining has successfully integrated varied perspectives from each sector, it is important to note that the individuals, organizations and companies on the Steering Committee have not reached agreement on all aspects of the standard. However, they believe it is time to open up the standard to broader consultation and are therefore asking for a first round of feedback and input from the public, businesses and other stakeholders.

After the Oct. 22 comment deadline, revisions will be made to the draft Standard for Responsible Mining and a second draft will be released for an additional comment period before the final standard is prepared. The goal is to develop a certification scheme based on independent third-party verification and in compliance with ISEAL Alliance's Code of Good Practice for standard setting. 

"With this set of new guiding principles for mine sites, we are raising the bar on environmental and human rights standards for mining," said Jennifer Krill, executive director at Earthworks, an international mining reform group. "The credibility of this proposed new system lies in the unprecedented participation of leaders from every sector involved in mining." 

Gold, iron ore, copper and other minerals and metals are used in everything from jewelry and cell phones to building materials and auto parts. The process for mining these materials can have significant social and environmental impacts and result in conflict between mining companies, local communities and other stakeholders. With growing awareness and demand for environmentally and socially responsible products by consumers, mining companies' customers - jewelers, electronics businesses and others - have sought assurances that minerals are mined responsibly. 

The Standard for Responsible Mining will cover mine sites, not mining companies, and will not certify extraction of energy fuels (e.g. uranium, coal, oil or gas). The best practices for mining will include elements such as consideration of ecologically and culturally significant areas with regard to the location of the mine; reducing environmental impacts such as habitat loss and pollution; health and safety provisions for workers; free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples; and transparency in revenue payments from companies to governments. 

"With this draft Standard for Responsible Mining we have an unprecedented opportunity to better the lives of communities sitting on natural resources," said Larson Bill of the Western Shoshone Defense Project. "By giving feedback on this draft, native peoples around the globe can help ensure greater respect of our rights and better control over our future when evaluating mine proposals on our lands." 

"We believe IRMA will do much to improve the entire industry by motivating mine operators to work towards, and ultimately achieve, certification," says Anisa Kamadoli Costa, Vice President, Global Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Tiffany & Co. "We've witnessed great success in similar certification initiatives, such as the Forest Stewardship Council, in raising the bar for an entire industry and increasing consumer awareness of responsible practices. Because IRMA includes the same key components - credibility in the marketplace through a multi-stakeholder approach and independent third-party verification - we hope this initiative will have similar success." 

In addition to the USW, the IRMA Steering Committee is made up of Anglo American, Tiffany & Co., Jewelers of America, Earthworks, Canadian Boreal Initiative and Western Shoshone Defense Project.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Joe Drexler, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-6009, 416-434-7907, jdrexler@usw.ca
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca
Aimee Boulanger, IRMA Coordinator, tel. +1-360-969-2028, aboulanger@responsiblemining.net
Liz Banse, Resource Media, tel. +1-206-261-3185, liz@resource-media.org