1999 JACKLING LECTURE The miner and sustainable development

James, Patrick M.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 4
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
Many in mining believe that the industry is slipping behind in public image, in public mineral education and, particularly, in mining's basic right to do business. It is critical to turn things around - to change the rules of the game soon - before mining loses any chance of recovery. In the industry's experience, there is a technique of project development and operation that can help gain ground on public opinion. Only recently has this technique had a name, and that is sustainable development. What is sustainable development? Sustainable development is broadly accepted and supported by the international business community. And significant thought and work has been devoted to the subject. Research into the topic was initially confusing because the definitions of sustainable development are written in terms the writer, and his or her constituency understands. To some, it refers to environmental protection. To others, it is about social responsibility. And to the developer, it is about economic benefit. Slowly a theme emerged from the research that seemed to be part of all the definitions. That theme has three parts. First, the development, whatever or wherever it is, must contribute economic value to the developer and the stakeholders of the development. Stakeholders in this context include employees, neighbors, residents of the surrounding area, citizens of the country, suppliers and all others affected by the development. Next, sustainable development must contribute environmental value. This means that at a very minimum it must be neutral and not cause irreparable damage. And last, and what is new for miners and most other businessmen, it must contribute real social value to the stakeholders. How to use the concept? With that three-part theme as a working definition, the mining industry must find ways to use that “the challenge is for an individual company to translate what sustainable development means for them. There is no one model..." Donald W. Gentry is president and chief executive officer of Polymet Mining and former professor emeritus of mining engineering at Colorado School of Mines. He added: "While simple to state, the concept is anything but simple to implement. Present trends indicate ... one wins the sustainable development argument by staking out the high ground early..." In other words, start using sustainable development principles at the beginning of the project. New ways of doing business The mining industry's challenge is to implement sus¬tainable development universally around the world. Paternalism as a way of doing business is dead and a new model of doing business is emerging. All types of businesses are learning to deal with the stakeholders of new developments. Mining cannot be an exception to these trends. To understand how the international mining business came to sustainable development, it is useful to look back a few years. For many North American mining engineers, there were few opportunities for foreign assignments from the 1960s to the 1980s. American companies had been asked to leave many of the Latin American countries. Africa was going through a continent-wide upheaval. The Soviet Union and China had Eastern Eu-
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