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Sustainability Standards in Mining

New Publication: Leveraging greater impact of mining sustainability initiatives: An assessment of interoperability


11.08.2017 |

The sector programme Extractives and Development and the University of Queensland just published the research report ‘Leveraging greater impact of mining sustainability initiatives: An assessment of interoperability. It states enhancing the interoperability of different mining sustainability initiatives in the mining sector will increase their effectiveness and promote the developmental potentials of the extractive sector.

Sustainability initiatives in mining aim at making mining and metals supply chains more sustainable through laws and regulations, standards and certification schemes. Initiatives have multiplied since the 1990s, which complicated their application and diminished their effectiveness. It therefore became important to explore collaboration and interoperability opportunities between existing standards in order to (i) lower the compliance costs, (ii) reduce stakeholder misunderstanding, (iii) amplify the reach, (iv) improve outcomes and (v) increase efficiency.

With support of the sector programme Extractives and Development, the University of Queensland carried out an 18-months research project on the interoperability of mineral sustainability initiatives relevant to mining and metals supply chains. The project is aimed at assisting civil society, business and governments to better co-ordinate and align efforts to ensure improved sector performance as a result of their sustainability initiatives. The research project analyses the concept of interoperability, which describes the degree to which the diverse sustainability initiatives in the extractive sector are able to work together to achieve a common goal.

The research combines theoretical and conceptual analysis with on-the-ground field research and provides information on positive examples of cooperation. The project compares 18 initiatives with respect to their type, thematic scope, assurance process, and sanctions for non-compliance. Among the initiatives included in the research are the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), the Fairtrade Standard for Gold and Associated Precious Metals (Fairtrade) and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The research also contains two case studies, i.e. (1) the synergies of the EITI with the certification programme of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) with focus on information sharing, data collection and peer-learning; and (2) the collaboration and cross-recognition of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) and Fairmined in Brazil and Columbia.

The final report recommends establishing inter-sectoral working groups to harmonise sustainability initiatives in relation to trust building, cross-referencing and process sharing, and the development of general M&E models for impact measuring.

The research found that there is significant variation in terms of scope and design characteristics of the selected initiatives. In order to build a common understanding and to promote cooperation, commonly agreed terms for the same concerns play an important role. Certain environmental themes are often addressed in similar ways, especially relating to waste and water. But most initiatives differ widely in their approaches to economic development and social aspects. In the area of transparency of payments and conflict minerals, most initiatives refer to the EITI and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance. Finally, although a majority of initiatives include provisions for non-compliance, more consensus should be found on non-compliance procedures and disciplinary sanctions.

With respect to the two case studies, the researchers concluded that the collaboration between EITI and the ICGLR did not live up to expectations, partly for political reasons and limited data collection skills. However, the researchers recognised the RJC Fairmined interoperability project as an important precedent on how upstream companies and ASM could work together towards more responsible mining.

For further information, please contact Leopold von Carlowitz


Interoperability Study Cover

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