Mapping mining to the SDGs - Clean Earth Technologies

Mapping mining to the SDGs

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) encapsulate the global action plan for social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and economic development. An unprecedented mobilisation of human, physical, financial, and technological resources to advance job creation, innovation, investment, and infrastructure, the call-to-action hinges upon the invaluable and ongoing partnerships between governments, the private sector, communities, and civil society. By mapping mining to the SDGs, mining corporations can and should leverage on the transformative power of collaboration and partnership this will unlock supporting initiatives and efforts that will bolster the industry’s contribution to a sustainable future, and act as a catalyst for further cooperation and multi-stakeholder dialogue.

Many of the metals and minerals produced by mining, including gold, are essential building blocks to technologies, infrastructure, energy, and the growth of global wealth. The mining industry fosters economic development by providing opportunities for business development, decent employment, increased fiscal revenues, and infrastructure linkages. As such, it has the capacity to impact the SDGs in both positive and negative ways.

Historically, mining has frequently been singled out as a contributor to many of the challenges that the SDGs are attempting to address. These include, but are not limited to, the violation of human rights, increased risk for health problems in vulnerable mining communities, corruption, gender-based violence, armed conflicts, social inequality, the displacement of populations, and environmental degradation from mining activity. 1 But many mining companies have been improving on their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) standards, and they are increasingly conducting occupational safety and health analysis as well as social impact assessments to mitigate potential risks to their businesses. 2

Mining companies can strengthen local value chains to leverage on local procurement and preserve land access by fully restoring resettled communities. Pollution-free mining activities should be carried out, and water quality and soil fertility should be regularly monitored in mining regions. This is an imperative for many existing gold mining operators that still use toxic cyanide in their gold extraction process and have to maintain tailings facilities at great financial and environmental cost. Decoupling dangerous cyanide from the gold mining industry is now possible by transitioning to Clean Earth Technologies’ non-toxic gold recovery reagent and dewatering process so that dry tailings can be generated cleanly and sustainably.

For the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector that uses mercury to extract gold, greater emphasis needs to be placed by governments to bring operators into the formal space. 3 Doing so will increase the capability of officials to establish frameworks that prevent toxic mercury emissions to the environment. 4 Clean Earth Technologies’ non-toxic gold recovery reagent is also scalable to suit smaller, artisanal gold mining operators. The complete eradication of mercury from the gold supply chain will eliminate the primary source of anthropogenic mercury pollution globally, and as toxic mercury is a serious health hazard, this will further support local capacity-building to the SDGs centred around life above water, life under water, clean water, health, and sanitation.5

Achieving the desired outcomes of the SDGs will require that all sectors and stakeholders incorporate the SDGs in their own practices and operations. To ensure that the positive contributions are realised, national governments should also create multi-ministerial plans that align mining policies with national development strategies, and engage systemically with industry and local authorities to leverage investment for sustainable development. 6 This will involve the integration of Mining Codes into the broader discussion of sustainable development and national plans to achieve the SDGs.7

It is also important to note that private investors who control mining companies do have significant latitude in determining the allocation of resources and deployment of capital. 8 With the rise of impact investing, many activist investors are looking for accountability from mining corporations. Many of these investors have even questioned mining entities on their sustainability considerations. Over time, this will undoubtedly spur innovation in mining companies to minimise resource use and waste, and stimulate activities that incorporate responsible practices throughout the value chain.

The mining industry is here to stay. But environmentally-friendly operational practices and lixiviant leaching systems that accomplish non-toxic mining outcomes will frame the future of mining. 9Ultimately, mining operations must be safe and clean to enable sustainable development, and this can only be attained if all stakeholders map mining to the SDGs judiciously.10

 

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[1] There are numerous impacts attributed to mining activity that are intrinsically tied to the SDGs. For more on the issues surrounding the sustainable development goals in mining, see, Nathalie Barbosa Reis Monteiro, Elaine Aparecida Da Silva, and José Machado Moita Neto, “Sustainable Development Goals in Mining,” Journal of Cleaner Production 228 (2019): pp. 509-520, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.04.332.

[2] Private investors are uniquely placed to improve the transparency of tailings storage facility data and can exert pressure on boardrooms to consider tailings facility risks in their decision-making. Investors will need improved data and frameworks to support meaningful and responsible investment in mining corporations. For more, see, Sally Innis and Nadja C. Kunz, “The Role of Institutional Mining Investors in Driving Responsible Tailings Management,” The Extractive Industries and Society, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2020.10.014.

[3] There is a divide between ASGM informality and overarching policy/donor objectives to formalise the ASGM sector. For deeper insights, see, Gavin Hilson and Roy Maconachie, “Formalising Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining: Insights, Contestations and Clarifications,” Area 49, no. 4 (January 2017): pp. 443-451, https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12328.

[4] Besides the possibility of expunging mercury from the ASGM sector, there may also be opportunities for women to enter the formalised ASGM sector with government support. For more, see, Gabriel Kamundala Byemba, “Formalization of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo: An Opportunity for Women in the New Tin, Tantalum, Tungsten and Gold (3TG) Supply Chain?,” The Extractive Industries and Society 7, no. 2 (2020): pp. 420-427, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2020.03.001.

[5] Cyanide is at times used in the ASGM sector. For a model of logistic regressions to predict cyanide contamination in areas affected by ASGM, see, Lovasoa Christine Razanamahandry et al., “Prediction Model for Cyanide Soil Pollution in Artisanal Gold Mining Area by Using Logistic Regression,” Catena 162 (2018): pp. 40-50, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2017.11.018.

[6] For more on the collective goods and innovative solutions that can be borne from the mining industry’s contribution to the UN SDGs, see, Natalia Yakovleva, Juha Kotilainen, and Maija Toivakka, “Reflections on the Opportunities for Mining Companies to Contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Sub – Saharan Africa,” The Extractive Industries and Society 4, no. 3 (2017): pp. 426-433, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2017.06.010.

[7] For a critical review of emerging trends in legislative regimes regulating the mining sector in Africa, see, Chilenye Nwapi, “Legal and Institutional Frameworks for Community Development Agreements in the Mining Sector in Africa,” The Extractive Industries and Society 4, no. 1 (2017): pp. 202-215, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2016.11.010.

[8] Suzanne Young, “Responsible Investment, ESG, and Institutional Investors in Australia,” Institutional Investors’ Power to Change Corporate Behavior: International Perspectives Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability, 2013, pp. 61-80, https://doi.org/10.1108/s2043-9059(2013)0000005011.

[9] A great amount of research has focused on mining lixiviants that are alternatives to cyanide. The alternatives focused on were thiosulfate, thiourea, and halide processes. While Clean Earth Technologies has a non-toxic gold recovery reagent for the mining industry, it is known that certain other lixiviants may pose health, safety, and environmental concerns. For more on the mining lixiviants, see, M.g. Aylmore, “Alternative Lixiviants to Cyanide for Leaching Gold Ores,” Gold Ore Processing, 2016, pp. 447-484, https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-444-63658-4.00027-x.

[10] For a unique synthesis of the complex issues and an outline of how mining could be described as responsible, see, Gavin M. Mudd, “Sustainable/Responsible Mining and Ethical Issues Related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1144/sp508-2020-113.

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