Sustainable Development Of Industrial Minerals From Mining To Manufacturing - Introduction - Preprint 09-080

Kogel, J. E.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2009
Industrial minerals play a central and dual role in the sustainable development (SD) of natural resources. Over the past decade the mining industry has increasingly focused on sustainably extracting and processing industrial minerals. This trend has been driven by higher energy costs, diminishing water resources and sensitivity towards environmental stewardship. Industrial minerals have been used throughout human history as low cost, naturally occurring, materials. Today they are critical components of recycled packaging, energy efficient building materials, light weight paper coatings, and other products critical to the responsible utilization of global resources. As industrial minerals become more widely used in ?green? products, mining companies have established best practices for the sustainable management of industrial minerals mining and processing. These management practices include reducing energy consumption, minimizing water usage, increasing waste recovery through recycling and process optimization, and maximizing the amount of ore extracted per acre of disturbed land. With the commitment to SD principles, quantitative methods for objectively measuring SD performance have become increasingly important. Measuring sustainability impact is a valuable tool for effectively applying SD principles and for making choices that balance sustainable development against other business objectives. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND MINING Sustainable development is a term that has become a common part of our lexicon; however, it has multiple meanings and interpretations leading to a sometimes confusing and contradictory array of definitions. The absence of a single, precise definition reflects the fact that SD is a broad concept or paradigm that offers guiding principles as opposed to a specific set of criteria or regulations enforceable by government or other oversight agencies. While a principle based conceptual approach allows businesses to broadly apply SD practices that are tailored to their specific situation, it has also led the public to sometimes view voluntary corporate SD programs with a degree of skepticism (Walker and Howard 2002). This is particularly true in the mining industry. One reason for this skepticism is that the relationship between SD and mining is misunderstood and to many, sustainably developing non-renewable mineral resources is a contradiction (Rajaram et al. 2005). However, this view takes a very narrow interpretation of the tenets of SD. The second is that mining carries a legacy of poor environmental stewardship that does not accurately reflect current corporate environmental practices Many minerals companies have adopted the Brundtland Comission?s definition of SD (United Nations 1987): ?? development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs?. This definition is very broad and can be interpreted in a number of ways. It provides a general context for sustainable development and is not intended to provide detailed guidelines addressing specific aspects of sustainable development. To fill this gap the following SD principles were drafted by the international minerals community in 2003 (ICMM 2003): 1. Implement and maintain ethical business practices and sound systems of corporate governance. 2. Integrate sustainable development considerations within the corporate decision-making process. 3. Uphold fundamental human rights and respect cultures, customs and values in dealings with employees and others who are affected by our activities. 4. Implement risk management strategies based on valid data and sound science. 5. Seek continual improvement of our health and safety performance. 6. Seek continual improvement of our environmental performance. 7. Contribute to conservation of biodiversity and integrated approaches to land use planning. 8. Facilitate and encourage responsible product design, use, re-use, recycling and disposal of our products. 9. Contribute to the social, economic and institutional development of the communities in which we operate. 10. Implement effective and transparent engagement, communication and independently verified reporting arrangements with our stakeholders. These guidelines insure that SD concepts are applied equally across the industry while setting a clear performance standard and benchmark against which to evaluate success. By adopting these principles and issuing the Milos Statement (, which provides a more detailed vision for integrating SD into everyday business operations, the minerals industry has embraced SD as a core corporate value. The unifying and holistic approach embodied in SD principles impacts the entire mine to market life cycle and addresses the economic, environmental and social consequences of mining. INDUSTRIAL MINERALS The world economy relies heavily on minerals; they are essential to economic prosperity and the quality of life. Industrial minerals are non-metallic, non-fuel minerals that provide the raw materials for a vast range of products used in most every aspect of daily life. They are mined and processed worldwide and they span the spectrum from relatively low value, high volume commodities (e.g. common clay, crushed stone) that are usually mined locally to high value, low volume specialty materials that are sourced from unique one of a kind deposits (e.g. barite, talc, mica). High volume commodity mining operations are often located near the end use market which, in most cases, means areas of high population density where construction and other urban activities drive demand. In these situations the strict adherence to SD principles is particularly critical as these are highly visible operations that must meet the public?s demand for good corporate citizenship. These operations are similar to chemical or other manufacturing facilities that operate near population centers. In contrast, some mining operations are located in remote but environmentally sensitive regions of the globe where the pressure to mine sustainably is driven by the need to preserve habitats and other
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