IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining (Draft 2.0)
Chapter 2.5 Mining and Conflict-Affected or High-Risk Areas

Background

Mining projects may take place in areas where there are existing or potential conflicts or socio-political instability that can adversely affect the project and local stakeholders. In some cases, conflict may be external to the company’s operation, and in other cases conflict may be caused or exacerbated by a company’s activities or presence in an area.

Developing suitable responses to conflict risks is challenging, but guidance exists to assist companies in identifying, assessing and mitigating risks and impacts associated with operating in an area of existing or latent conflict.[1] Such guidance is increasingly being used as a means of cultivating transparent mineral supply chains and corporate engagement in the mineral sector, with a view to enabling countries to benefit from their mineral resources and preventing the extraction and trade of minerals from becoming a source of conflict, human rights abuses, and insecurity.[2]

Objectives/Intent of this Chapter

To prevent contribution to conflict or the perpetration of serious human rights abuses in conflict-affected or high-risk areas.

Scope of Application

Chapter Relevance:  All mines applying for IRMA certification are expected to have undertaken conflict screening (Criterion 2.5.1.) to determine if they are in a conflict-affected or high-risk area. The due diligence requirements that follow 2.5.1 are relevant for mines that are proposed or located in conflict-affected or high-risk areas, as well as mines that have product that is transported through conflict-affected or high-risk areas (if the material is in the custody or ownership of the operating company).[3]

New vs. Existing Mines:  New mines are expected to undertake conflict screening, and any required due diligence, as early as possible during the project investment phase.  Existing mines will not be expected to have carried out conflict screening prior to project investment. They will, however, be required to undertake screening, and any other required due diligence, prior to applying for IRMA certification.

NOTES TO READERS ON MAJOR CHANGES TO THIS CHAPTER:

  • Restructured the chapter to more closely align with a typical Risk Assessment Methodology, i.e., assessment, risk management (including development of mitigation strategies), monitoring, and reporting. Also moved “no contribution to conflict” to criteria 2.5.2.
  • Removed the reference to the Heidelberg Barometer as the default method to be used to determine whether or not the mining project is located in a conflict-affected/high risk area, and instead, use language taken from the OECD Due Diligence Guidance and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • Removed specific reference that the report on conflict due diligence be in the dominant languages of potentially affected stakeholders.  Communications with stakeholders is covered in Chapter 2.8, and it is mentioned in the table of Cross References to Other Chapters at the end of the chapter.
  • Now refer in text (and Cross Reference table) to Chapter 2.4. E.g., if risks related to human rights are uncovered in the conflict risk assessment, companies need to adhere to the requirements related to prevention, mitigation or remediation of human rights risks and impacts laid out in Chapter 2.4.
  • Cross Reference table acknowledges that information gathered for the conflict screening and/or risk assessment, may feed into other company assessments such as security risk assessment, ESIA, human rights impact assessments, and vice versa.
  • The means of verification (MOV) have been removed from this version of the draft IRMA Standard. If you would prefer to review and comment on a version of the draft Standard that has the means of verification, you can download a pdf version of the Standard with MOV.
     

Mining and Conflict-Affected or High-Risk Area Requirements

2.5.1.  Conflict-Affected/High-Risk Area Screening

2.5.1.1.  Prior to the development of a new mine,[4] the operating company shall conduct a screening analysis to determine whether or not the proposed mining project is located in a conflict-affected or high-risk area.

2.5.1.2.  Screening shall be based on evidence from credible sources, and be informed by consultations with relevant local stakeholders, as well as expert advice.[5]

2.5.1.3.  Screening analyses, including sources of information and rationale used to justify whether or not their mining-related activities occur in a conflicted-affected or high-risk area, shall be documented, and provided to senior management of the operating company.

2.5.1.4.  If a determination is made that the project is located in a conflicted-affected or high-risk area then the company shall undertake the additional due diligence steps outlined in the remainder of this chapter.  

2.5.1.5.  If a determination is made that the project is not located in a conflicted-affected or high-risk area, conflict-related risks shall be monitored at a level commensurate with the potential that the area may become a conflict-affected or high-risk area.[6] If new risks emerge or previously identified risks intensify, screening shall take place to determine if risks are significant enough to warrant undertaking the additional due diligence steps in the remainder of this chapter.

2.5.2.  Company Management Systems

2.5.2.1.  When operating in a conflict-affected or high-risk area, the operating company shall not knowingly contribute to armed conflict,[7] or knowingly provide direct or indirect support to non-state armed groups or their affiliates, public security forces, or private security forces who: 

a.   Illegally control mine sites, transportation routes and upstream actors in the supply chain;

b.   Illegally tax or extort money or minerals at point of access to mine sites, along transportation routes or at points where minerals are traded; or

c.    Illegally tax or extort intermediaries, export companies or international traders.[8]

2.5.2.2.  When operating in a conflict-affected or high-risk area, the operating company shall:

a.   Adopt and communicate to the public and stakeholders a commitment that when operating in a conflict-affected or high risk area the operating company will not knowingly or intentionally cause, contribute to or be linked to conflict or the infringement of human rights by any party;[9]

b.   Maintain documentation on the quantity and dates of mineral extraction; locations where minerals are consolidated, traded or processed; all mining-related taxes, fees, royalties or other payments made to governmental officials, including public security forces; all payments made to private security forces or other armed groups; and transportation routes.[10] This information shall be made available to downstream purchasers and auditors and to any institutionalised mechanism, regional or global, with the mandate to collect and process information on minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas;[11]

d.   Assign authority and responsibility to senior staff with the necessary competence, knowledge and experience to oversee the conflict screening and due diligence processes; and

e.   Ensure that stakeholders have access to and are informed about a mechanism to raise conflict-related concerns or grievances.[12]

2.5.3.  Conflict Risk Assessment

2.5.3.1.  The operating company shall assess the potential risks to the company and impacts to workers and communities associated with operating in the conflict-affected or high-risk area.

2.5.3.2.  The assessment shall follow a recognized risk assessment methodology,[13] and be carried out and documented by competent professionals with appropriate training or expertise.[14]

2.5.3.3.  The assessment shall include, at minimum:

a.   An analysis of structural, root and proximate causes of the current conflict, and potential triggers of conflict in the area of operation;[15]

b.   A review of the factual circumstances of the operating company’s mineral extraction, transport, and, if relevant, mineral processing;[16] and

c.    An analysis of the risk that any of the company’s activities may lead to the direct or indirect or infringement of human rights or support of armed groups. 

2.5.3.4.  The assessment shall be based on credible evidence including on-the-ground research, expert advice, and information from consultations with relevant stakeholders.[17]

2.5.3.5.  Conflict risk assessments shall be updated at minimum, on an annual basis, and more often if necessitated by the situation. 

2.5.4.  Conflict Risk Management

2.5.4.1.  The operating company shall develop and implement a risk management plan that includes actions to be taken to prevent or mitigate risks identified through the risk assessment process.

2.5.4.2.  The operating company shall collaborate with relevant stakeholders to develop culturally appropriate strategies to prevent or mitigate risks that are relevant to them; to develop performance objectives, timelines and indicators to measure the effectiveness of the risk management strategies; and to update or revise its prevention and mitigation strategies as needed.

2.5.4.3.  If risks to human rights are identified in the assessment, the operating company shall adhere to the requirements in IRMA Chapter 2.4.[18]

2.5.5.  Monitoring

2.5.5.1.  The operating company shall implement and monitor the effectiveness of its risk management plan as per the performance objectives, timelines and indictors developed with stakeholders.

2.5.5.2.  If through monitoring or some other means it is discovered that the operating company has unknowingly or unintentionally been complicit in armed conflict or serious human rights abuses in conflicted-affected or high-risk areas, the operating company shall immediately cease the offending action, mitigate or remediate the impact, and carry out external monitoring of its due diligence activities as per as per IRMA Chapter 2.4.[19]

2.5.6.  Reporting

2.5.6.1.  The findings of conflict risk assessments, risk management plans and monitoring shall be reported to senior management of the operating company, and stakeholders, contractors and employees shall be informed of findings that are relevant to them.

2.5.6.2. The conflict risk assessment, risk management plans and monitoring data shall be made available to the IRMA auditor.

2.5.6.3.  On an annual basis, the operating company shall publicly report on due diligence undertaken to ensure that it is not supporting armed conflict or the infringement of human rights while mining in the conflict-affected or high-risk area.[20]

Notes

The most widely recognized due diligence framework for minerals sourced from conflict zones is the “OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas” (OECD Guidance). The OECD Guidance formed the basis for many of the requirements in this chapter. IRMA Guidance will provide information on where IRMA requirements align with the OECD Guidance.

IRMA reserves the right to delay certification audits for operations located in conflict-affected or high-risk areas if, through consultation with auditors and the operating company, IRMA determines that armed conflict in the vicinity of the mine makes it impossible for auditors to safely visit the operation.

Requirement 2.5.2.1 prohibits a company from knowingly contributing to conflict.  This requirement does not speak to impacts on human rights. IRMA Chapter 2.4 addresses IRMA’s expectations related to the unknowing or unintentional infringement of human rights. Additionally, if a company knowingly contributes to serious human rights abuses, whether in a conflict-affected area or not, IRMA, through its Policy on Association, may decertify the mining operation and/or end its association with a company. IRMA's draft Policy on Association can be accessed here. IRMA welcomes comments on its draft policy.

Cross Reference to Other Chapters

 Chapter

 Issues

1.2—Revenue and Payments Transparency Information gathered to fulfill requirements in Chapter 2.5 (e.g., 2.5.2.1, 2.5.3.1) may feed into the reporting requirements in Chapter 1.2. (e.g., requirements 1.2.1.3 and 1.2.3.2) regarding payments to governments.
2.4—Human rights Due Diligence and Compliance Information from human rights impact assessments may feed into the conflict risk assessment, and vice versa, and public reporting on conflict due diligence (i.e., requirement 2.5.6.3) may be integrated into the public reporting on human rights due diligence reporting, as per requirement 2.4.5.1, if human rights due diligence reporting is done on an annual basis.

Strategies developed to mitigate potential or actual human rights impacts related to mining in conflict-affected areas must conform with the relevant requirements in Criteria 2.4.3.

External monitoring as per requirement 2.4.4.2 shall occur if a company’s conflict-related due diligence failed to prevent it from unknowingly causing or contributing to armed conflict or serious human rights abuses.
2.6—Security Arrangements Information related to security arrangements from conflict risk assessments (e.g., the use of private or public security forces at the mine site or along transportation routes, payments made to these entities, history of infringement of human rights by security forces, etc.).may feed into the security risk assessments, and vice versa. 
2.8—Community and Stakeholder Engagement All stakeholder engagement in Chapter 2.5 must conform with the requirements of Chapter 2.8. In particular, criterion 2.8.3 is important to ensure that affected stakeholders have the capacity to fully understand their rights and participate effectively in the assessment and development of prevention/mitigation plans, monitoring, and remedies for impacts on their safety and human rights in conflict-affected or high risk areas. And 2.8.4 ensures that communications and information are in culturally appropriate formats and languages that are accessible and understandable to affected communities and stakeholders, and provided in a timely manner.
2.13—Grievance Mechanism and Access to Other Remedies As mentioned in 2.5.2.1.d, the operating company shall ensure that stakeholders are informed of the existence of mechanisms for raising concerns conflict-related concerns.  The operational-level grievance mechanism developed as per Chapter 2.13 may serve this purpose. It may be deemed necessary, however, to create a separate mechanism or separate procedures for handling complaints from stakeholders in conflict-affected areas.  If a separate mechanism or procedures are created, they must be developed in a manner that aligns with Chapter 2.13. 
4.1—Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Conflict screening may occur as part of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment process.

 

Endnotes

1. IRMA Guidance will include references for resources related to due diligence for mining in conflict-affected areas, as well as resources on how to carry out a conflict sensitive approach to business practices.

2. OECD. 2013. Due Diligence Guidance on Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas (2nd Ed.) p. 3.

3. This is based on a similar requirement found in the World Gold Council’s Conflict-Free Gold Standard. A2.4.

4. Ideally, this should take place early in the project investment phase.

5. IRMA Guidance will provide more information and references regarding what is meant by evidence from credible sources, relevant stakeholders and expert advice. But as an examples:  credible sources may include reports and other information (e.g., maps, statements) from governments, international organizations, NGOs, industry, media, United Nations or others (e.g., ethical pension funds) relating to mineral extraction, and its impact on conflict, human rights or environmental harm in the country of potential origin, as well as criteria and indicators of conflict-affected or high-risk areas developed through multi-stakeholder initiatives; relevant stakeholders may include local government or community leaders; civil society organizations; other companies operating in the area; or independent experts with local knowledge and expertise; and expert advice, as elaborated on in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, includes drawing on not only expertise and cross-functional consultation within the company, but also to consult externally with credible independent experts, including from Governments, civil society (e.g., human rights defenders), national human rights institutions and relevant multi-stakeholder initiatives.

6. For example, mines located in many parts of the United States, Canada or Australia may not need to perform monitoring because the areas are stable, have good governance, high standards of living, etc. However, in other countries where peace and security may exist but be somewhat fragile, or even in some regions of so-called stable countries, there may be the need to monitor the situation more closely (e.g., areas where there is potential for localized conflicts, protests, etc. to arise).

7. Contributing to armed conflict includes, but is not limited to, making payments to or otherwise providing logistical assistance or equipment to any party involved in the armed conflict. It does not include legally required forms of support, including legal taxes, fees, and/or royalties that companies pay to the government of a country in which they operate. Note: Unlike the remainder of requirement 2.5.2.1, “the operating company shall not knowingly contribute to armed conflict” is not limited by whether or not there was illegal activity by the armed parties.

8. “Direct or indirect support” includes, but is not limited to, procuring minerals from, making payments to or otherwise providing logistical assistance or equipment to non-state armed groups or public or private security forces; it does not include legally required forms of support, including legal taxes, fees, and/or royalties that companies pay to the government of a country in which they operate. (OECD. 2013. Due Diligence Guidance on Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas (2nd Ed.) p. 22). See Notes at the end of the chapter.

9. The commitment may be integrated into an existing policy, such as a human rights policy, or be a public statement regarding operations in conflict-affected areas. Additionally, the operating company may develop its own policy, or adopt a corporate owner’s policy as long as it clearly communicates the operating company’s commitment to abide by the corporate-level policy.

10. This type of documentation is required in Chapter 1.2, other than payments to private security forces/armed groups.

11. The company may exclude information that compromises the safety of any individual or is legitimate confidential business information. Justification shall be provided for information that is omitted.

12. The operational-level grievance mechanism developed as per Chapter 2.13 may be used as the mechanism to receive all types of concerns or complaints, including conflict-related grievances, or a separate mechanism may be created to handle only conflict-related complaints and grievances. If a separate mechanism is developed, it shall be done in a manner that is consistent with IRMA Chapter 2.13.

13. Guidance will cover this more extensively, but risk assessments typically include: establishment of scope; identification of risks; assessment of risks; development of risk treatment and mitigation measures; monitoring and revision; as well as stakeholder engagement and communication requirements.

14. The assessment may be carried out internally (by the company) or by external, third-party experts, as long as they are competent to carry out the work.

15. IRMA Guidance will provide more information on what is meant by structural, root and proximate causes, as well as potential triggers of conflict.

16. IRMA Guidance will provide more information on what is meant by “factual circumstances” and examples of the types of information that might be relevant to review.

17. IRMA Guidance will provide more information on what constitutes “credible evidence”, “on the ground research”, and what is meant by relevant stakeholders and expert advice.

18. Chapter 2.4—Human Rights Due Diligence and Compliance. (See specifically, requirement 2.4.3.2).

19. Chapter 2.4—Human Rights Due Diligence and Compliance. (See specifically, requirements 2.4.3.3. and 2.4.4.2.).

20. This report may be integrated into the reporting on human rights due diligence as per IRMA requirement 2.4.5.1. More information will be provided in IRMA Guidance.

 

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