Aidan Davy
Chief Operating Officer and Director, Environment Program
View from the Top

ICMM: a Benchmark for Responsible Mining

By Paloma Duran | Wed, 02/03/2021 - 11:14

Don't miss Aidan Davy's participation as a speaker at Mexico Mining Forum 2021 on February 10-11. You can find the program and registration here!

Q: What are the main awareness gaps regarding the relevance of mining for economic, social and environmental advancement?

A: I believe that there are two major awareness gaps: Firstly, there is a lack of understanding of the importance of mining’s contribution to the economic life of a country and its potential to become a driver of socio-economic progress. Several countries are unaware that mining is profoundly important to their national economy, which is potentially problematic and could fuel a debate around the role of mining that may be poorly informed. The second major awareness gap is the potential for mining to drive socio-economic progress within host communities. Two years ago, we published a report that compared the socioeconomic status of several countries in the last 20 years against a range of social metrics aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The results were really striking because we observed that mining dependent countries had better outcomes than oil- and gas-dependent countries and non-resource-dependent countries. This demonstrates that the substantial benefits mining to social progress of countries is often not appreciated.

Q: What are the benefits of implementing ICMM’s Mining Principles?

A: ICMM’s Mining Principles are designed to maximize the industry's benefits and minimize negative impacts. These define good practice environmental, social and governance requirements for the mining industry through a comprehensive set of Performance Expectations. I think the implementation of our Mining Principles allows constructive and positive relationships between companies and host communities to be established. Moreover, companies benefit from increased transparency and reporting of their progress because they can engage with important stakeholders such as customers, investors, and nongovernmental organizations.

Q: What are the some of the benefits that mining companies could obtain from having an ICMM membership?

A: First, it gives companies a seat at the table in leadership discussions that set the direction for key practices within the industry around sustainable development, which are not only important to the industry, but also to stakeholders. Second, our networks give our members the opportunity to interact at various levels and discuss important issues that pertain to the industry. Third, they exchange and discuss good practices between members and sometimes with external organizations on important issues, such as climate change. Lastly, member companies can count on ICMM to credibly speak about the industry’s contribution to society and, therefore, help to improve societal acceptance.

Q: What is ICMM’s process to attract and accept new members?

A: People tend to think our membership is only for bigger companies but that is not the case. Our members are a mix of all sizes. There is no impediment to any company that has an interest in becoming an ICMM member. Usually, companies find out about the organization through other members, they see us at events, or hear about us from their investors. Subsequently, they contact us to learn more about ICMM or the process to become a new member. A unique characteristic of our membership process is that it is not overseen by other members or ICMM. We delegate that responsibility to an independent expert review panel that impartially confirms if a company should be admitted as an ICMM member.

Q: Recently, ICMM published a series of equivalency benchmarks  that compare the requirements of ICMM’s Mining Principles with other mining standards. How does this allow for more efficient, transparent and simplified standards for evaluating practices?

A: We are very conscious that ICMM’s Mining Principles are not the only standard for responsible mining. At ICMM we understood the importance of ensuring that our Mining Principles were aligned with the objectives of other responsible mining and sourcing standards. We established the equivalency benchmarks to promote transparency around mining standards, helping investors, consumers and other stakeholders understand how these standards address our sustainability concerns as well as the similarities and differences between them. We also wanted to make the process for self-assessment or third-party validation more efficient for mining companies, particularly in situations where they are looking to conform with more than one of these standards at the same time.

Q: What new practices or tools is ICMM looking to implement on tailings?

A: Last year, we launched the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management  and this year we have two significant pieces of work being released that seek to support companies on the management of tailings: a Tailings Management Good Practice Guide and Conformance Protocol. We expect to release both at the end of Q1. Our members have committed to an ambitious time frame for its full implementation, so we will be releasing the Conformance Protocol to help those companies that are interested in doing an initial self-assessment or knowing more about the implementation of the standard.

Q: What should be the three main priorities of any mining CEO for this year?

A: Firstly, understanding growing consumer expectations for metals and minerals to be produced responsibly should be a priority. Secondly, investors want to understand companies time frames for adopting and implementing the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management. Therefore, it should be a priority for companies to understand where they are now and how to implement standards within a reasonable time frame.

The third priority relates to climate change and how companies are responding to the urgent need for action following The Paris Agreement. In particular, their plans to decarbonize their own activities, ensuring their assets are climate resilient in the face of growing climate hazards, and being able to respond to the growing demand from investors for a strategic approach to address climate change.

International Council on Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) Mining Principles define good-practice environmental, social and governance  requirements for the mining and metals industry through a  comprehensive set of Performance Expectations.

Paloma Duran Paloma Duran Journalist and Industry Analyst