The Global Intergovernmental Meeting on the Environmental Aspects of Minerals and Metals Management (GIMM) refined a set of 24 “non-prescriptive proposals” (NPPs) to enhance the environmental sustainability of minerals and metals along their full life cycle. The NPPs had been developed by five regional consultations between April and September 2023 and will be included in a report for consideration by the sixth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) in 2024.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change necessitates a quadrupling of critical mineral inputs by 2040, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary report of the meeting highlights. The world would need six times more mineral inputs in 2040 than today, to reach net-zero emissions globally by 2050. Projections cited by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) point to a twentyfold increase in demand for minerals by 2035 to drive the clean energy transition.

Given the enormous environmental implications of increased mining, UNEA-5 mandated a process to generate non-prescriptive proposals for actionable solutions. This process concluded at the Intergovernmental Meeting, culminating in broad-ranging deliberations on 24 draft NPPs.

Among other issues, discussions focused on whether and how to:

  • have UNEP do a global assessment of existing instruments and standards;
  • create international metal certification schemes;
  • promote sustainable consumption and production (SCP), including through a circular economy and extended producer responsibility (EPR);
  • develop technical guidelines and standards for tailings management;
  • adopt guidelines for mine closure;
  • create a new intergovernmental working group to follow up on any proposals made by the GIMM;
  • develop a possible global minerals programme; or
  • embark on an international agreement on environmental aspects of mining.

The ENB summary notes that “the concept of exploring an international agreement at this time was widely regarded as premature,” with varying support for other proposals. Delegates expressed the most interest in: a global assessment; the establishment of a possible working group; greater efforts at capacity building and technical assistance, with respect to, for example, tailings management and mine closures; and the creation of a global sand observatory.

Hosted by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the GIMM convened in Geneva, Switzerland, from 7-8 September 2023. The Meeting brought together representatives from 120 governments and 60 observer organizations, including UN agencies, intergovernmental bodies, secretariats of multilateral environment agreements (MEAs), industry, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). [ENB Coverage of the Global Intergovernmental Meeting on Minerals and Metals]