The Responsible Mining Foundation has just released its Responsible Mining Index 2018 after two years in development with extensive informed rounds of multi stakeholder comment. Rating the 30 largest mining companies worldwide responsible for 700 mining operations and undertaking a close examination of 127 mine sites in countries with significant income inequality, the results are sobering and disappointing for an industry that has long insisted on self-regulation. Ultimately the index reflects a prevalent inadequacy of minerals resource governance in responsibly sourcing the minerals the world needs. The purpose of the foundation and the index is not to berate but to encourage. It provides an authoritatively vetted map of what constitutes “responsible mining” and what standards can be applied to assessing a company’s practice with reference to those standards. To the end of encouraging the index brings forward the unique company created initiatives which best illustrate policy harnessed to action.
These two aspects of the work are its greatest contributions to the pursuit of “Responsible Mining” as the shared global standard for all mining.
Where other codes articulate a range of standards, the RMF code emphasizes the measurable evidence of implementation: proof of commitment, effectiveness of realization of the standards in practice, and accountability through public reporting of progress. They specifically note that many have formally adopted policies mirroring the words of key standards as official policy, especially on human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples but that few actually follow through on the commitment or track and report publicly on progress towards achievement of responsible mining goals. RMF is not hesitant to state that. The very low average scores, compared to what was a maximum possible score tell the story of how far the industry as a whole is from “responsible mining” as the norm.
The following charts and quotes present key findings. Current “Best Practice” as used by RMF is the scoring for those most exemplary corporate programs for each index component. ( In the report the company name is displayed by user selection of any given bar.)
“The vast majority of companies have made policy commitments on topics such as business ethics, human rights, occupational health and safety, and environmental impact management. Beyond this, few companies can demonstrate that they have systematically operationalised their commitments into effective actions and fewer still show they are tracking their performance on these issues. In the absence of evidence of such efforts, commitments by themselves might appear as meaningless gestures or simply tick-box exercises.”
“The widespread existence of commitments on human rights is at odds with the fact that violations of human rights (including forced evictions, land grabs and violent attacks on community members) are among the ten most common types of severe impacts identified in the RMI research”.
“At the mine-site level, some of the leading practices on performance tracking and reporting are the direct result of conditions set by an investor or a producing country government. By contrast, few companies show they go beyond compliance to proactively disclose public-interest information, and fewer still take the lead to address emerging concerns, such as the impacts of mining on children, where external interest has been slower to manifest.”
“Only a small proportion of mine sites show evidence of reporting on matters of direct interest to mining-affected communities, workers and other stakeholders. This includes information on how a site performs on local employment, local procurement, grievance, water use and biodiversity impacts. For one-third of the mine sites assessed, no evidence was found of performance reporting on any of these issues. In the absence of publicly reported data, it is more difficult for companies and local stakeholders to develop trust-based relationships or engage in constructive discourse on issues of shared interest.”
“A few companies illustrate the use of open data principles to ensure the reported information is provided in a way that enables users to readily understand it and use it for meaningful assessment and comparison. Adoption of leading practice would ensure that data are disaggregated, provide regular or real-time information, allow change to be seen, allow users to understand the context, and are locally accessible and machine readable. Disclosure of public-interest data in an effective manner can help companies foster more informed engagement with their stakeholders, including governments, investors and civil society.”
While the performance stats are dismal the Responsible Mining Foundation finds in the few outstanding initiatives and the few very high scores n some elements by some companies the affirmation that responsible Mining is possible now everywhere.
“While individual company results still show considerable scope for improvement, the RMI-assessed companies have collectively proven that responsible mining is a realistic goal – it can be done. The RMI 2018 results show that if one company were to attain all the highest scores achieved for every indicator, it would reach over 70% of the maximum achievable score. This implies that existing best practice, if systematically applied by all companies, could already go some way to meeting society expectations.”
Mine Site Analysis Shows Extent of Shortfall On Responsible Mining Practice
The 127 mine sites were selected to represent those in areas with the greatest income disparity, 3 or 4 chosen from each company. The rating categories are specific to the mine specific analysis and not included in the overall company scores.” These mine-site indicators help to shine a spotlight on how companies tackle some of the most important issues for workers, local people, local environments, and local economies. These indicators also give an indication of how consistently companies apply their policies and practices throughout their operations.”
“ it appears that no single company has an effective systematic corporate-wide approach to mine-site level reporting as none of the 30 companies assessed show consistent reporting across all the indicators and all the mine sites assessed.”
“Three indicators stand out because of the widespread lack of evidence found on performance tracking. These relate to performance of community and workers’ grievance mechanisms and biodiversity management; the vast majority of mine sites show no evidence of tracking the effectiveness of their work on these issues . More broadly though, the results for all six indicators show many sites providing no relevant information. Indeed, for approximately one-third (35%) of the mine sites assessed there was no evidence of any performance reporting on any of the issues. In general, very few companies provide information disaggregated by mine site.”