Why IRMA’s Draft Standard Matters to the Mining Industry

October 20, 2014

By Jonathan Samuel, Group Head of Government and Social Affairs, Anglo American

Mining is at the heart of the world’s economy and its products play a role in almost every part of our daily lives, from the smartphone in your pocket to the journeys we make by road, rail or air. As they say, if you can’t grow it, you mine it. So it is not surprising that there is much interest in how mined commodities are produced, with growing calls for mining companies to demonstrate that they are acting responsibly.  Indeed, in many ways responsible mine certification isn’t on its way; it is already here, with sector, commodity and issue-specific standards existing and emerging around the world.

Anglo American supports all sensible efforts to advance responsible mining. For example, we have supported the work of the Responsible Jewellery Council for many years. But IRMA and its draft Standard for Responsible Mining represent a particular opportunity for us because, as a diversified miner, our preference would be for a single mine-level system that builds on the best of accepted international good practices. As well as being more efficient for both diversified producers and customers of multiple mined products, such an approach would also maximise consumer recognition. These potential benefits explain why we have invested substantial time and energy into crafting the draft Standard, and why we encourage stakeholders to participate in the comment period currently underway.

As a mining company, there are clear benefits for us in having our mines certified to responsible standards. These benefits include the potential for easier approvals, if we are operating to widely trusted standards, and providing reassurance to customers and society about the origins of their mined products. Credible standards also help to counter a generally negative perception of our industry, and show that leading companies are deeply concerned about the wellbeing of employees, host communities and the environment.

As we work toward the final draft of the Standard, two observations come to mind. The first is that for any broad-based certification system to be successful it must be practical, and draw on established best practices already in place. We can’t let perfection be the enemy of the good. Our own view is that much good work has been done on the Standard, but that further work is required before it readily implementable (something we expected at this early stage in the Standard’s development). 

Second, a truly comprehensive system must be able to attract, and reflect, widespread participation. That’s why we’ve invited the broadest level of feedback into the IRMA draft Standard for Responsible Mining. Integrating the many, and sometimes conflicting, voices of diverse stakeholders is a challenging and time-consuming task. But it is well worth it, and we hope you will click here for more information on how to participate.

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