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Source: Small Island Developing States

The 16th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) convened online to discuss issues related to theme, ‘Mining and COVID-19: From Crisis to Sustainability.’ Speakers noted challenges facing the sector but also the opportunity to transition to a more sustainable mining sector, and the possibility of achieving the SDGs through such efforts. 

Participants addressed the COVID-19-related loss of employment in mining communities due to border closures and decreased worker mobility, as well as health and safety concerns, and increases in poverty and food insecurity. The discussion also covered community resilience, gender equality, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), climate action, resource taxation, and technological innovation. 

No company is exempt from the fact that the full value chain is going to be decarbonized.

Speakers highlighted challenges facing the mining sector, such as the need to:

  • maintain mining companies’ social license to operate through greater accountability to local communities, trust building, and developing a shared vision whereby the profits of mining adequately benefit source countries;
  • improve domestic revenue collection from the mining sector through tax reforms, including measures to reduce tax base erosion and profit shifting, and greater transparency in minerals pricing;
  • use digital technology to replace physical labor in mining, and train workers with the relevant skills in robotics, automation, and remote equipment operation;
  • develop policies for mine closure, including financial assurance to support closure and rehabilitation of old mines before land is returned to communities for other uses;
  • “green” the mineral supply chain by reducing carbon (CO2) emissions in mining and transport of minerals; and
  • adopt tools and approaches for gender impact assessments, to better understand the potential impact of mining projects in exacerbating, or reducing, existing gender inequality patterns, as well as impacts on ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples’ territories.

In a session on ‘Mining, Climate Change, and COVID-19—How the Pandemic Has Impacted Global Actions,’ participants were introduced to the Race to Zero global campaign, which seeks to generate leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, and investors to commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Nigel Topping, High-Level Climate Action Champion, UK, urged the mining sector to join the Race to Zero, stating that, “Nobody is exempt from the fact that the full value chain is going to be decarbonized.”

IGF representatives presented guidance developed by the IGF on improving legal frameworks for environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) and management. The guidance summarizes international best practices in this area. Participants also reviewed drafts of IGF guidance for governments on environmental management and mining governance. Measures to implement the new Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, which was published in August 2020, were also discussed. 

The AGM took place from 20-22 October 2020 in a virtual format, with over 1,800 participants from 110 countries registering for the three-day event. The 17th AGM is expected to take place in the final quarter of 2021.

The IGF is an outcome of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), which encouraged governments, civil society and private sector actors to enter into voluntary partnerships focused on sustainable development objectives. The Summit’s Johannesburg Plan of Implementation specifically called for efforts to address the environmental, economic, health, and social impacts and benefits of mining, minerals, and metals throughout their life cycle, including worker health and safety issues, and to promote transparency and accountability for sustainable mining. 

Following the WSSD, the Governments of Canada and South Africa were active in establishing the IGF, which was announced in February 2005 as a voluntary initiative for national governments interested in promoting good governance in the management of mineral resources. The IGF has 76 government members. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of IGF 16]

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