Anglo American and the United Steelworkers have signed onto a program - appearing to be developed under the auspices of environmental NGO and longtime U.S. mining law reform advocate Earthworks - called the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA).
However, a spokeswoman for IRMA told Mineweb Thursday the organization "is a multi-sector effort, independent of Earthworks."
The group includes Earthworks, jeweler Tiffany & Co., which is active in the opposition to the Pebble Mine project; the Canadian Boreal Initiative, which supports the supremacy of Aboriginal rights over mining rights; and the Jewelers of America; as well as the Western Shoshone Defense Project, which filed several lawsuits over the years to halt Nevada gold mining projects. Former South African miner Glen Mpufane, mining director at IndustiALL Global Union is also a member of the group.
While IRMA used the address of Earthworks’ Washington, D.C. office in its news release announcing the release of the standards, IRMA spokeswoman Liz Banse, vice president of Resource Media, said Thursday, "IRMA does not have a physical address as we operate virtually at this time."
IRMA is managed by Aimee Boulanger, who has worked for Earthworks on a number of projects over the years. However, Banse noted, "MailChimp, our e-newsletter base, requires us to enter a physical address."
Since Boulanger works out of her home, "we used Earthworks as the address for that requirement," Banse said.
Although Boulanger still authors studies for Earthworks, she left the employment of Earthworks in 2002. "She is currently an empoyee of IRMA and is paid by them, not Earthworks," Banse said.
On Tuesday, IRMA released a draft Standard for Responsible Mining, which includes a proposed set of principles to improve social and environmental performance “and is the result of eight years of collaboration between groups who have historically been at odds. It seeks to emulate for industrial-scale minesites what has been done with certification schemes in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.”
The overall objective of the 171-page IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining is that industrial mining should: respect the human rights and aspirations of affected communities; provide safe, healthy and respectful workplaces; avoid or minimize harm to the environment; and, leave positive legacies. The standard covers business integrity, social responsibility, environmental responsibility, closure and reclamation, and management systems.
Within those categories are standards for revenue transparency, labor and working conditions, mine safety, human rights, community and stakeholder engagement, resettlement, water quantity and quality, mine waste management, air quality, cyanide, greenhouse gas emissions, noise, protected areas, environmental and social impact assessment, environment and social monitoring, and grievance mechanisms.
The mining operator would agree to “obtain the free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous peoples” before commencing a mining project, according to another proposal contained within the document.
In their news release, IRMA stressed “it is important to note that the individuals, organisations and companies on the [IRMA] Steering Committee have not reached agreement on all aspects of the Standard. However, they believe that now is an appropriate time to open the Standard to broader consultation and are therefore asking for a first round of feedback and input from the public, businesses and other stakeholders.”
“The goal is to develop a certification scheme based on independent, third-party verification and in compliance with ISEAL Alliance’s Code of Good Practice for standard-setting,” said the news release.
“The credibility of this proposed new system lies in the unprecedented participation of leaders from every sector involved in mining,” said Earthworks Executive Director Jennifer Krill.
The standard will cover mine sites, but not mining companies, and will not certify extraction of energy fuels.
Jon Samuel, group head of government and social affairs at Anglo American, said, “Each one of us wants a future where mining companies make a positive contribution to local communities and minimise any impact on land and water, while serving the needs of modern society.”
“Though we don’t always see eye to eye on every issue, IRMA has developed a draft set of leading-edge practices and a new definition of more responsible mining,” he stressed.
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