A number of movements to promote corporate social responsibility – as evidenced by efforts to certify sustainably managed forests, end the trade in conflict diamonds, and institute fair labor practices in the apparel industry – demonstrate the public’s desire for companies to operate in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. Mining results in environmental and social change no matter where the mine is located. However, by implementing the best possible standards, many negative impacts can be avoided.
To date, existing frameworks have not been adequate to address the negative environmental and social impacts associated with mining.
The Framework for Responsible Mining – a research report co-authored by Dave Chambers, CSP2, Marta Miranda, WWF, and Catherine Coumans, MineWatch Canada – is the result of a call by NGOs, retailers, investors, insurers, and technical experts working in the minerals sector to create a basis for developing responsible sourcing and investing policies. The Framework evolved out of dialogue in 2003 between NGOs, such as the Center for Science in Public Participation, Earthworks, World Wildlife Fund, and companies that use mineral products, such as Tiffany & Co. Those at the table recognized that sourcing from or investing in environmentally and socially responsible mines could help companies avoid the risks to brand associated with the negative impacts from environmentally and socially destructive mining-related investments.
The Framework outlines environmental, human rights, and social issues associated with mining and mined products, and explore state-of-the-art social and environmental improvements, providing recommendations for retailers and others seeking to source or invest responsibly, as well as those charged with regulating and encouraging responsible mining practices.
The Framework is organized according to four main themes:
1) Identifying areas where mining may not be appropriate land use (i.e., resulting in a “no go” decision);
2) Ensuring environmentally responsible mine development;
3) Ensuring socially responsible mine development; and
4) Ensuring that appropriate governance structures are in place and implemented at national and corporate scales.
Major findings of the Framework include:
• Mining should not occur in protected areas designated for conservation purposes, such as national parks, wildlife refuges, or marine protection zones.
• The public should be notified of and able to participate in all aspects of mining, from exploration planning to mine closure. Environmental analysis should be accurate, complete, and include worst-case scenarios and analyses of off-site impacts.
• A qualified professional should certify that water treatment, or groundwater pumping, will not be required in perpetuity to meet surface or groundwater quality standards beyond the boundary of the mine. Monitoring and discharge reports, including contamination of surface and ground water, should be made publicly available in a timely manner.
• Tailings impoundments and waste rock dumps should be designed, constructed, and monitored to minimize threats of release to the public, workers, and the environment.
• Environmentally responsible mining should not include riverine or shallow-water submarine waste disposal.
• Companies should monitor and publicly report hazardous emissions to workers, air, and water.
• Reclamation plans and post-mine planning should be developed before operations begin, and should include reasonable cost estimates and financial assurances, all of which should be reviewed and regularly updated.
• Companies should obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples before exploration begins and prior to each subsequent phase of mining and post-mining operations.
• Companies should enter into binding contracts with communities, specifying the terms for each mine activity and phase, and the consequences if either party fails to abide by the agreement.
• Mines should recognize the rights of workers to organize labor unions and should compensate employees based on job performance; compensation should not be influenced by gender, race, religion, or creed.
• Resettlement should be avoided and should not occur without the free, prior, and informed consent of affected individuals set out in a binding Consent Agreement. Where resettlement does occur, planning and execution should include community participation, fair compensation, and mechanisms for equitable dispute resolution.
• Financial institutions should report the environmental and social risks associated with their lending in the mining sector and companies should report money paid to political parties and governments.
• Companies should avoid investing in areas where the risk of violent conflict is high (e.g., in areas of civil war or armed conflict).
CENTER for SCIENCE in PUBLIC PARTICIPATION (CSP2) is now working with Earthworks, Oxfam, World Wildlife Fund, and other NGOs in preliminary negotiations with jewelers, private and government banks, and mining industry representatives to discuss how the Framework for Responsible Mining, and other sources for guidelines for responsible mining, might be used to develop standards that would lead to a certification process for individual mines worldwide.
The Framework is available online at: