COMMENT: New standards for responsible mining proposed by IRMA – by Marilyn Scales (Canadian Mining Journal – July 22, 2014)

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), has released a draft Standard for Responsible Mining for public comment. The draft is a proposed set of principles to improve social and environmental performance in the mining sector.

The draft was created over eight years by a group that includes members from the mining industry, organized labour, nongovernment organizations, impacted communities and businesses. IRMA said in a news release that the new standards seek to emulate for industrial scale mine sites what has been done with certification schemes in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

Included in IRMA are representatives from Anglo American, IndustriALL Global Union, Earthworks, Tiffany & Co., United Steelworkers, Canadian Boreal Initiative, Jewelers of America, and Western Shoshone Defense Project.

Indeed the Standard is comprehensive. It includes guidelines on legal compliance as well as revenue and payments transparency. It addresses social responsibility including fair labour and working conditions, health and safety, human rights, informed consent, cultural heritage and communicable diseases. The section on environmental responsibility tackles not only water quality but water quantity, waste management, noise, air quality, biodiversity, plus the use and management of cyanide and mercury. Reclamation and closure are covered as well as management systems for assessment, monitoring and remedies.

IRMA’s approach is to cover mine sites rather than mining companies. Most mined metals and materials are included with the exception of uranium, coal, oil and gas.

We urge our readers to go through the new Standard for Responsible Mining and comment to IRMA because the guidelines are in draft form and they can be fine tuned. You may or may not agree with suggestions such as posting on your website all material payments to governments; having a formal emergency response plan developed with the local community; developing policies in regards to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; balancing water use with natural groundwater replenishment; foregoing operations at World Heritage Sites; complying with the International Cyanide Management Code; and planning for the impact on lands even before exploration begins. There are many, many more.

That the 171-page document is comprehensive is an understatement. It can be downloaded as a PDF file by clicking this link, Standard for Responsible Mining.

The draft deserves to be read by Canadian miners, aboriginal people, environmentalists, and anyone concerned about the future of our industry. This is an opportunity to have some input into what may become standard operating practices for mine sites anywhere in the world.