Delegates discussed ways that mining companies are starting to mitigate greenhouse gases emitted from mining operations.
Other issues discussed included concerns whether producer countries, especially African countries, will be able to derive long-term benefits from the huge increase in global demand for minerals used in renewable energy technology, and post-mining transition strategies, including for coal regions, which would restore environments damaged by mining activities and provide alternative employment for people in local communities.
10 October 2019: Over 500 participants considered the theme, ‘Mining in a Changing Climate,’ at the 15th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF). Delegates discussed ways that mining companies are starting to mitigate greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted from mining operations, as well as how they are learning to adapt to changes in climate and the environment, water scarcity, and increased risk of natural disasters.
Participants also considered what mining will look like in the future as digital technology changes the way that work is done, the digital economy changes the way that resources may be taxed, and consumers increasingly seek out ethically-sourced products.
The three-day event, which convened from 8-10 October 2019, was organized by the IGF Secretariat and hosted by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. The IGF serves as a global venue for dialogue among 74 member country governments, as well as mining companies and industry associations.
During the discussion on mining in a changing climate, participants debated, inter alia: whether regulations are needed to supplement and align voluntary mining company initiatives on climate change; whether new governance arrangements need to be developed at the international level; what incentives can push companies to be more ambitious in their climate initiatives; and whether studies already exist on zero-GHG technologies for mining.
Among other issues discussed during the 15th AGM were the following:
- “Climate-smart” mining and “green mines” that use renewable energy, avoid waste generation, and restore degraded land, for example, by reprocessing mine tailings, and capping old tailings mounds to grow vegetables;
- Concerns whether producer countries, especially African countries, will be able to derive long-term benefits from the “huge increase” in global demand for minerals used in renewable energy technology, and what can be done to promote ownership models that benefit local communities;
- Post-mining transition strategies, including for coal regions, which would restore environments damaged by mining activities and provide alternative employment for people in local communities;
- Gender equality issues, including whether women have opportunities to be involved in national and local-level debates around the impacts of mining, whether they benefit from mining activities, and whether they have avenues to report mining-related problems, including problems of gender-based violence;
- Development of common standards for responsible mining, including the current Global Tailings Review consultation, which seeks to avoid further disasters such as the collapse of the Brumadinho tailings dam in Brazil in early 2019;
- The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Inclusive Framework on base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), which may allocate “market-facing countries” the right to tax transactions, potentially reducing the revenue received by producer countries; and
- Efforts to formalize the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector, especially from the perspective of eliminating child labor, promoting decent work, and avoiding mercury emissions from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM).
In addition, the Secretariat presented a draft version of the IGF guidance on environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for comment, prior to its planned release in February 2020. The 16th AGM will convene from 9-13 November 2020, in Geneva. [IISD Summary of the 15th AGM]