Dr Timothy Synnott, COO, Minería Responsable S.C (a new ResponsibleSteel Associate), outlines Minería Responsable’s role in supporting the uptake of standards for responsible mining.
A powerful element of the ResponsibleSteel programme is the requirement to obtain raw materials from responsible sources (see update on site and product certification). This provides a new and urgent incentive for mining companies to address their social and environmental impacts.
The list of steel’s core raw materials in the ResponsibleSteel draft standard shows that the steel industry depends on countless mining operations worldwide. These mines have positive socio-economic impacts, but their negative impacts are under scrutiny. Recent disasters, including failures of tailings dams, have encouraged calls for stronger laws, regulations and monitoring. Certification, combined with industrial demands, can provide valuable incentives. Public concerns can generate rewards as well as penalties.
The ResponsibleSteel standard has many elements in common with sustainability standards of the ISEAL system, applied in many industries, from forestry and fisheries, to gold and golf courses. They are developed by international multi-stakeholder agreements, to cover legal, social, environmental and economic responsibility. Many of these standards were created in response to concerns about negative impacts, including illegal logging, over-fishing, “blood diamonds” and disrespect for the rights of communities and indigenous peoples.
Certification of responsible mining is now available worldwide by IRMA, the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, www.responsiblemining.net. The IRMA standard, like the ResponsibleSteel standard, represents a broad consensus among interested and affected parties, based on international agreements and recommendations. Many mining companies are now studying the IRMA system, and some have already applied for audits, aiming at full certification in 2020.
I started work on the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification system 30 years ago, when the reputation of forestry and logging was at its lowest ebb. Now, the reputation of the industry as a whole has been transformed. Five years ago, I became convinced that IRMA certification could have a similar impact on mining, especially in countries where mining has a poor reputation, as in Mexico. We have set up an organization to accompany mining companies through the process: Minería Responsable S.C. Our first client, Carrizal Mining SA de CV (zinc etc.), is now ready for its first audit by an approved certification organization, SCS Global Services.
We will work with mining companies that want to prepare themselves for auditing by accredited certifiers. The steps will include an appreciation of the standard, a self-evaluation using IRMA guidelines, the changes needed to policies and procedures, and the training of staff for their implementation.