Impact on nature and community are top of mind for large mining companies

Investing African Mining Indaba Day 2 at the CTICC. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Investing African Mining Indaba Day 2 at the CTICC. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 7, 2024


The impact on nature and community are top of mind for large mining companies that are members of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).

The ICCM was founded in 2001 and is responsible for roughly a third of global mining output and its presence at this year’s African Mining Indaba 2024 in Cape Town highlights its commitment to doing the right thing.

In a round table discussion yesterday, ICCM CEO Rohitesh Dhawan outlined the ICMM members’ commitment to taking action to halt and reverse nature loss and reaching global decarbonisation targets.

“Many see nature loving mining as an oxymoron but where our members operate we have had a positive impact on nature and the communities surrounding the mines. We live in an environment where we need to value nature, so we needed to be able to put a price on how important nature and cultural sites were to the local communities.

“In order to do that we first had to audit our operations and then the supply chain. Then we needed to be transparent and regularly report on progress,” Dhawan said.

ICMM’s strategy rests on four pillars, namely Environmental Resilience, Social Performance, Governance and Transparency and Innovation.

The commitment to Environmental Resilience means ICMM members need to deliver on their net zero commitment announced in 2021 by further improving water management at site-level and maximising the industry’s contribution to a nature positive future.

The Social Performance pillar results in ICMM members playing a leading role in creating diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces and societies by further strengthening approaches to upholding and enhancing human rights, particularly the rights and interests of indigenous peoples, and supporting the resilience of communities to thrive in a changing, climate-impacted world.

To that end indigenous people are involved in the decision making bodies of the ICMM.

Governance and Transparency means adherence to environmental, societal and governance standards by ensuring the maximisation of benefits of mining for host countries through disclosure and transparency, while at the same time enhancing practices for responsible and sustainable mine closure and driving implementation of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management across the industry.

Innovation means accelerating the adoption of technology in tailings management to reduce waste while at the same time supporting the development of a circular economy and pursuing a step-change in eliminating fatalities towards the goal of zero harm.

“We aim to be nature positive and rather than wait until a mine is closed, we recommend progressive rehabilitation, which tends to be easier, cheaper and better.

“We also aim to leave a legacy that endures, so Anglo American for instance aims to create five jobs in the local community for every job created at the mine. What we battle with is inward migration, as when we start a mine we have a certain population in the local community, but that can swell to fifty times that number as the mine attracts unemployed people from surrounding areas,” he said.

He said although mines seem to get a negative press, the reality was that mining only covers 0.5% of the planet’s surface, while agriculture covers half of the surface.

“We have made a commitment to not mine in World Heritage Sites and we are heartened that the International Hydropower Association has followed our lead and will not build dams in World Heritage Sites,” he said.