Day-to-day activities in modern society are fundamentally tied to the production output of the extractive industry. Legal and regulatory reform, institutional strengthening, and a clean extractive industries value chain will enable sustainable economic growth and development whilst respecting community needs. With good governance and transparent management, the mining industry can have a positive impact on reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity in resource-rich countries.
The world is rapidly transitioning to low-carbon technologies to combat climate change. But this will require lots of precious metals and minerals that must be mined somewhere, and the demand will skyrocket as the world pivots to sustainable and reliable energy production. For instance, University of California, Irvine research into conductive nanowire has shown that gold may have potential use in energy storage and other applications. 1 As a storage of value and a metal used in an increasing number of industrial processes, it is inevitable that demand for gold will rise, and enlightened consumers of gold will want to procure Clean Gold™ — a Clean Mining-backed global industry standard accreditation programme for gold produced to the highest social, environmental, and economic sustainability standards.
As jobs are created and government revenues boosted, significant challenges will emerge if this transition is not managed responsibly and sustainably. Poor management in the extractive sector harms the environment and human health. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, pollution, industrial accidents, social issues and conflict, and loss of biodiversity are just some of the major issues that the mining industry is concerned with. 2 While gold mining operations have historically had a large socio-environmental footprint, advances in technology and improved management techniques have made it possible to dramatically reduce negative impacts and facilitate a change in the perception of the public towards mining activities.
For countries endowed with natural resources, appropriate policies, plans, and legislation need to be structured in a way that ensures environmentally and socially sustainable extraction practices are carried out. 3 Proper regulation of the mining industry will bolster corporate governance and mining operators’ adherence to compliance standards, which will also contribute to positive economic and human development. As pressure is brought to bear on mining corporations to undertake sustainable and responsible mining activities, the entire extractive industry’s value chain — from exploratory studies to extraction, processing, and mine closure — will have to incorporate a system capable of ensuring the responsible extraction of minerals. This must be aligned to delivering economic benefits in a way that minimises and mitigates environmental impacts related to water, biodiversity, and land.
Clean Earth Technologies has developed a non-toxic and sustainable gold recovery reagent for mining operators so that their operations can be carried out cleanly and sustainably. The mercury-free and cyanide-free solution can also be used with various ore types, and mining operators will even be able to generate dry tailings by applying Clean Earth Technologies’ de-watering process. This will allow mining operators to not require tailings dams, which are potentially dangerous structures that cause great environmental harm when there are dam leaks or an overflow of tailings contents.
An interplay of good governance and standards, academia and research into clean technologies, clean mining operations on-the-ground, consumers’ purchase of ethical gold products, and investors’ growing predilection for mining operators with good environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) performance will drive the industry to be more sustainable and productive. As more mining operators integrate sustainable practices in their operations, it will catalyse local and regional economic development and reduce risks such as environmental degradation and linked social harms, human rights violations, and corrupt practices. Improving the environmental performance of the industry, especially in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector, will further safeguard the health and well-being of workers.
Mining operations must be safe and clean to enable sustainable development. 4 To truly benefit from an increase in demand for gold and other metals, the extractive industry will clearly need to address climate change considerations, water use, biodiversity, deforestation, energy demand, and human health concerns while maximising the benefits for mining communities.
Minerals and metals consumption strongly correlates with economic growth and urbanisation, and the world will need a clear vision of sustainable mining for the 21st century. Charting a path to a sustainable future will require the extractive industry to commit to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for if the risks of mining activity are not properly managed, economic growth and development will come at an unacceptable social and environmental cost.
 “Chemists Create Battery Technology with off-the-Charts Charging Capacity,” Phys.org (Phys.org, April 20, 2016), https://phys.org/news/2016-04-chemists-battery-technology-off-the-charts-capacity.html.
 “Why Does Extractives Matter?,” UNEP – UN Environment Programme (United Nations), accessed September 14, 2020, https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/extractives/why-does-extractives-matter.
 “Extractive Industries,” UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), accessed September 14, 2020, https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/2030-agenda-for-sustainable-development/planet/environment-and-natural-capital/extractive-industries.html.
 For more on plotting mining’s path to sustainability and an essential reference from an ethical perspective, see, Arvanitidis N., Boon J., Nurmi P. and Di Capua G. (2017). White Paper on Responsible Mining. IAPG – International Association for Promoting Geoethics, http://www.geoethics.org/wp-responsible-mining.