IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining (Draft 2.0)
Chapter 4.1 Environmental and Social Impact Assessment


In almost all jurisdictions, mining companies are required to conduct environmental impact assessments (EIA) or environmental and social impact assessments (ESIA) prior to mine development, and some also require them prior to exploration. ESIA enable regulators and other stakeholders to review predicted impacts and mitigation measures for a mining proposal before it is finalized or approved.

The importance of stakeholder involvement in ESIA is increasingly recognized, improving the quality of the assessments and helping to build community support for a project by involving local stakeholders in the process and associated decision-making.

Objectives/Intent of this Chapter

To proactively anticipate, avoid, and when that is not possible, minimize and compensate for impacts on affected communities, workers and the environment through the assessment, management and monitoring of environmental and social impacts.

Scope of Application

New versus Existing Mines:  ESIAs are typically undertaken to predict potential impacts from a proposed mining project, and often are mandated by host country regulatory agencies. For IRMA’s purposes, mines that did not carry out an ESIA prior to the mine development will not be expected to subsequently carry out such an assessment. But they will be expected to demonstrate that an environmental and social management plan (or its equivalent) and monitoring programs are in place to detect impacts. Additionally, criterion 4.1.5 requires the collection of baseline data.  For projects where baseline data was not collected at the appropriate time, the applicant shall collate and present data to provide the best possible picture of baseline conditions.


  • This was previously Chapter 5.1.
  • Revised previous 5.1.2 Scoping (now 4.1.2) to include some of the requirements previously in 5.1.3 Provision of Preliminary Information; revised previous 5.1.6 Impact Analysis (now 4.1.6), to provide more clarity on expectations for this step; and revised Stakeholder Participation and Disclosure criteria to remove duplication with Chapter 2.8 (we reference relevant sections of the IRMA Standard in footnotes and the table of Cross References to Other Chapters below).
  • Added a new section 4.1.7. ESIA Report.
  • Deleted Chapter 5.2—Environmental and Social Impact Monitoring. This was done because many chapters specifically address monitoring, and so it created overlap/duplication within the Standard. We created a specific monitoring criterion (4.1.8) in this chapter; and integrated monitoring-related issues directly into some other criteria (e.g., 4.1.4 on stakeholder participation, and 4.1.9 on disclosure).
  • Removed the requirement for a permanent monitoring advisory group, as the role of this group overlapped with the independent experts in Instead, added a permanent “stakeholder advisory group” into Chapter 2.8—Community and Stakeholder Engagement, which could play such a monitoring oversight role.
  • 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.

Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Requirements

4.1.1.  General Requirements  An Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), appropriate to the nature and scale of the proposed mining project and commensurate with the level of its environmental and social risks and impacts, shall be completed prior to the commencement of any site-disturbing operations associated the project.  The ESIA shall be carried out in accordance with publicly available, documented procedures that include all the elements specified in this chapter.

4.1.2.  Scoping  The operating company shall carry out a scoping process to identify all potentially significant social and environmental impacts of the project to be assessed in the ESIA.[1]  During scoping, the operating company shall identify stakeholders and rights holders (hereafter, collectively referred to as “stakeholders”) who may be interested in and/or affected by the proposed project.  Scoping shall include the consideration of:

a. Social and environmental impacts during all stages of the project lifecycle, from pre-construction through post-closure;

b. Direct, indirect impacts and and cumulative effects; and

c. Potential impacts of extreme events.  Scoping shall result in the identification of:

a. Potentially significant environmental and social impacts of the proposed project;

b. Preliminary actions to mitigate any identified negative impacts, including alternative project designs; and

c. Additional information and data needed to understand and assess the potential impacts.

4.1.3.  Provision of Preliminary Information  Prior to the implementation of the ESIA the operating company shall ensure that:

a. A report has been prepared and published on the operating company’s external website, in the official national language(s) of the country in which the project is proposed to take place, that provides:

b. Background information about the project, including information as to the proposed nature and duration of the project and related activities;

c. The preliminary identification of potential significant environmental and social impacts, and proposed actions to mitigate any negative impacts;

d. A description of the main steps of the ESIA process that will be carried out, the estimated timeline and the range of opportunities for stakeholder participation in the process; and

e. Contact details for the person or team responsible for management of the ESIA.

f. There has been a wide, public announcement of the project proposal and the associated ESIA process, and reasonable efforts to contact and inform all affected and interested stakeholders identified during ESIA scoping.

4.1.4.  Stakeholder Participation  The operating company shall ensure that there has been provision for timely and effective stakeholder consultation, review and comment on:

a. The proposed scope of the ESIA (the issues and impacts to be considered);

b. Methodologies for the collection of environmental and social data;

c. The findings of environmental and social studies carried out in relation to the ESIA, or whose findings are relevant to the conclusions and recommendations of the ESIA;

d. Options and proposals to mitigate the potential impacts of the project;

e. Provisional conclusions and recommendations of the ESIA, prior to finalization; and

f. The final conclusions and recommendations of the ESIA; and

g. The scope and design of the ESIA monitoring program.  The operating company shall encourage and facilitate stakeholder participation, where possible, in the collection of data for the ESIA, in the development of options and proposals to mitigate the potential impacts of the project, and in the ESIA monitoring program.[2]  The operating company shall record all stakeholder comments received in relation to ESIA scoping; implementation; ESIA findings, conclusions and recommendations; and the monitoring program. The company shall record how it responded to any such comments.

4.1.5.  Data Collection  Baseline data describing the prevailing environmental, social, economic and political environment shall be collected at an appropriate level of detail to allow the assessment of the potential impacts of the proposed project.  Additional studies shall be carried out as necessary to fulfil the information needs of the ESIA.

4.1.6.  Impact Analysis  The operating company shall:

a. Predict in greater detail the characteristics[3]  of the potentially significant environmental and social impacts identified during scoping;

b. Determine the significance of the predicted impacts;

c. Identify and develop measures to avoid or minimize the predicted adverse impacts, including consideration of alternative approaches to achieve the desired project objectives;

d. Determine the relative importance of residual impacts (i.e., impacts that cannot be mitigated) and whether such impacts can be compensated for or otherwise offset.

4.1.7.  ESIA Report and Management Plan  The operating company shall prepare an ESIA report that includes, at minimum:[4]

a. A description of the proposed project;

b. Description of the main impacts likely to result from the project, their predicted characteristics, and recommended measures to avoid or mitigate impacts;

c. A review of the public consultation process, the views and concerns expressed by stakeholders and how the concerns were taken into account

d. Names and affiliations of ESIA authors and others involved in technical studies.  If a decision is made to proceed with the mining project, an environmental and social management plan (or its equivalent) shall be developed that outlines the specific mitigation actions that will be carried out. This plan shall be implemented, and revised or updated as necessary based on new information.[5]

4.1.8.  Environmental and Social Impact Monitoring  The operating company shall establish a program to monitor:

a. The key environmental and social impacts identified through the environmental and social assessment; and

b. The implementation of mitigation measures established as a result of the ESIA.  The monitoring program shall be designed and carried out by competent professionals.  The operating company shall provide affected stakeholders with the opportunity to propose independent experts to collaborate with the company on the design and implementation of its monitoring program; and shall facilitate the independent monitoring of key impact indicators where this would not interfere with the safe operation of the project.[6]  The operating company shall have an effective, documented system in place to review the results of monitoring on a regular basis and to respond with timely and effective action as appropriate.

4.1.9.  Disclosure [7]  The ESIA report and any supporting data and analyses shall be made publicly available. Detailed assessments of some issues and impacts may be reported as stand-alone documents, but the ESIA report shall review and present the results of the full analysis in an integrated manner.  The operating company shall make an anonymized version of the record of stakeholder and rights holder comments and its own findings, conclusions and recommendations publicly available.  Summary reports of the findings of the monitoring program shall be made publicly available at least annually, and all data and methodologies related to the monitoring program shall be publicly available.  The existence of publicly available information, and the means of accessing it, shall be publicized by appropriate means.[8]


In many jurisdictions there are legal requirements for undertaking ESIA. Similarly, ESIA are often mandated by organizations that provide funding for projects (e.g., International Finance Corporation (IFC)/World Bank). The requirements of Chapter 4.1 align with the good practice requirements described by IFC Performance Standard 1: Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts.

Where documents and records produced in satisfaction of legal or other organization’s requirements also meet the requirements of the IRMA standard the operating company is not required to duplicate these.  A company may choose to develop summaries and explanations of such documents and records in order to facilitate the IRMA audit process and thereby reduce its cost.

The standard does not list the issues and impacts that are likely to be significant, as these will vary greatly depending on the scale, nature, duration and location of the particular project.  It is the responsibility of the operating company, in consultation with interested and affected stakeholders, to ensure that all the relevant issues and impacts are identified and considered.  Issues/ impacts to be considered may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Environmental impacts (e.g. surface disturbance, waste generation, air quality, biodiversity, species at risk, noise, water use and quality, spills);
  • Social impacts (e.g. housing, infrastructure, social services, poverty, community physical and mental health and safety, local economies, resettlement, ecosystem services, employment, population movements, differential and/or specific impacts on women);
  • Labor and working conditions;
  • Human rights;
  • Trans-boundary effects (e.g. air pollution, use of international waterways);
  • Greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Potential impacts on World Heritage Sites;
  • Potential impacts on Indigenous peoples and/or other vulnerable individuals or groups (e.g., women, ethnic minorities, youth and elderly, etc.), including impacts on culture and cultural heritage;
  • Socio-political risks, including e potential infringement of human rights, conflict and political instability.

An ESIA that meets the requirements of this chapter is a critical step in informing interested and affected stakeholders and rights holders including, where applicable, indigenous peoples about a proposed project and its potential impacts, prior to decision-making. The fact that an effective ESIA has been designed and implemented does not imply that a project should necessarily proceed. With effective engagement of stakeholders, however, it should provide a sound basis for consideration as to whether a project should or should not proceed.

Cross Reference to Other Chapters



1.1—Legal Compliance As mentioned in Chapter 1.1, companies are required to abide by host country law. Consequently, if there is an ESIA process mandated by a regulatory agency within the host country, the company will be required to participate in that process. However, if that process does not include some of the elements of the IRMA ESIA chapter, the operating company will be expected to demonstrate that measures were taken to meet the IRMA requirements, as well.
2.4—Human Rights Compliance and Due Diligence If the infringement of human rights is predicted during cultural heritage assessment, or if human rights related to cultural heritage have been infringed upon at a new or existing mines, a company will be expected to prevent, mitigate and remediate the impacts as per Chapter 2.4. This includes the mitigation or remediation of human-rights-related impacts from past cultural heritage management activities at existing mines.
2.3—Emergency Preparedness and Response Potential impacts related to community safety, and mitigation strategies identified in the ESIA should feed into the Emergency Response Plan and planning processes described in Chapter 2.3.
2.8—Community and Stakeholder Engagement Capacity building or training may be needed to ensure effective, effective participation by stakeholders in the ESIA process (see 4.1.4). The primary reference for that requirement is 2.8.3 Strengthening Capacity, in Chapter 2.8.

Disclosure of information shall meet the requirements of Chapter 2.8. In particular, information mentioned in to shall be in formats and languages that are culturally appropriate, accessible and understandable to affected stakeholders. See criterion 2.8.4 for more details.
2.10—Free, Prior and Informed Consent Implementation of ESIA requirements can be integrated with the free, prior and informed consent process described in Chapter 2.10. However, it should be emphasized that indigenous peoples’ participation in the ESIA process, including in the consideration of proposals to mitigate expected impacts does not, of itself, imply consent, even if the recommended actions to minimize impacts are fully implemented.
3.2—Water Quantity Section requires that a Conceptual Flow Model (CFM), or its functional equivalent, be utilized as part of the groundwater analysis in an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, and provides details on how the CFM is to be utilized in this analysis.
Multiple chapters that require risk or impact assessment There are numerous chapters in the IRMA Standard that require risk or impact assessments. These assessments may be integrated into the ESIA, if the timing works, and the relevant information and analyses are included in the ESIA.

Information produced for other assessments may also feed into the ESIA process (i.e., collection of some data may have already occurred, as well as an analysis of potential significance of some issues).  Conversely, if other assessments occur later than the ESIA, the data and analysis carried out for the ESIA may feed into those assessments.

The following chapters include reference to risk or impact assessment:  2.4—Human rights Due Diligence; 2.5—Mining and Conflict Affected Areas; 2.6—Security Arrangements; 2.7—Community Health and Safety; 2.9—Obtaining Community Support and Delivering Benefits; 2.11—Cultural Heritage; 2.12—Resettlement; 3.1—Water Quality; Chapter 3.7—Protected Areas; Chapter 3.8—Biodiversity Outside of Protected Areas; and Chapter 4.2—Reclamation and Closure.
Multiple chapters that require monitoring Several IRMA chapters have their own monitoring specifications, some of which may not entirely align with all of the ESIA monitoring requirements in Chapter 4.1. Where they differ, the chapter requirements take precedence. If there are no particular requirements, then the expectation is that any significant impacts related to those chapters will be captured in the ESIA monitoring program.

The following chapters include references to monitoring: 2.1—Fair Labor and Terms of Work; 2.2—Occupational Health and Safety; 2.4—Human rights Due Diligence; 2.5—Mining and Conflict Affected Areas; 2.6—Security Arrangements; 2.7—Community Health and Safety; 2.9—Obtaining Community Support and Delivering Benefits; 2.12—Resettlement; 3.1—Water Quality; 3.2—Water Quantity; 3.4—Air Quality; 3.5—Noise; 3.7—Protected Areas; Chapter 3.8—Biodiversity Outside of Protected Areas; 3.9—Cyanide; 3.10—Mercury; and Chapter 4.2—Reclamation and Closure.



1. Scoping refers to the early, open and interactive process of determining the major issues and impacts that will be important in decision-making on the proposal, and need to be addressed in an ESIA. IRMA Guidance will provide more information on ESIA scoping.

2. Facilitation may include the provision of information and explanations in local languages, using materials and approaches designed to be accessible to local communities, and providing capacity building or training on methods. See also Chapter 2.8, Criteria 2.8.3.

3. Characteristics of impacts will vary, but may include: nature (positive, negative, direct, indirect, cumulative); magnitude (sever, moderate, low); extent/location (area/volume covered, distribution); timing (during construction, operation, closure and reclamation; immediate, delayed, rate of change); duration (short or long term; intermittent or continuous); reversibility/irreversibility; likelihood (probability, uncertainty or confidence in the prediction); and significance (local, regional, global).

4. The UN University has developed guidance on international theory and practice of environmental (and social) impact assessment and has outlined other elements typically contained in an ESIA report.:

5. E.g., if monitoring indicates that effects are greater than predicted; or if there is a change in mining activities that warrants an update.

6. For example by allowing independent experts to have access to sites for monitoring social or environmental indicators, and by allowing access to relevant company records, reports or documentation.

7. See Chapter 2.8 for requirements related to Communications and Access to Information (2.8.4).

8. E.g., local radio, leaflets, local meetings.