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01 February 2018

It’s incredibly important to mine responsibly.

Failure to do so can mean devastating impacts on the surrounding environment and economic difficulties for local populations. The flip side is that if done well, mining can bring long-term benefits to people across the globe and can provide the metals needed for the transition to low-carbon economies.

Sustainable development lies at the heart of the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM), which was set up in 2001 after a two-year research and consultation process run by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). It listened to more than 5,000 individuals and organisations about the role that mining and metals could play in sustainable development.

Led by the CEOs of 25 of the world’s leading mining companies, ICMM is about mining with principles and have and we take this responsibility seriously. Membership of ICMM requires a commitment to our ICMM 10 Principles. These serve as a best-practice framework for sustainable development in the mining and metals industry.

Mining with principles.

If we take just one issue – water use, we can see that the mining industry has not done that well in the past. We are however doing better and are determined to play our part in helping the United nations achieve their ambitious Sustainable Development Goals – a set of 17 individual goals that aim to end poverty and hunger, protect the planet and ensure a sustainable future for all.

There is great alignment between ICMM’s 10 principles for sustainable mining and the SDGs.

With the SDGs in mind, our own environmental pledges include the responsible use, allocation and distribution of vital resources such as water – and considering and balancing the needs of all stakeholders (ranging from business interests to governments and local people).

Water is a critical component of most mining operations, and yet water demand is set to outstrip supply by 40% by 2030. Two-thirds of the world’s population are expected to live in water-stressed areas by 2025.

ICMM is committed to improving global water availability. In 2014, we launched our Water Stewardship Framework, to promote understanding of the key challenges in maintaining water supply levels. As a result, ICMM now requires all members to apply strong and transparent water governance and reporting measures for their operations.

We have also piloted a ‘catchment-based approach,’ which entails an understanding of the needs and water use behaviours of all water users in a particular region, including local communities.

Effective water management demands collective action, with a deep-seated understanding of local water issues. This means appreciating the impact of water use on all the communities and interests within a water catchment area so that the risks can be mitigated.

Our guide lays out detailed instructions on motivating internal teams within mining companies to work with local stakeholders, identifying stakeholders and clarifying their concerns and hopes surrounding water basin management. It also provides helpful tips to undertake effective, engaging consultations with these identified stakeholders to ensure the best practices to manage the water basin.

Anglo American has adopted this approach for its Minas Rio operations in Brazil, located in the Santo Antonio River Basin. Following ICMM’s guidance, Anglo American has engaged in a two-country workshop with 11 ICMM member companies, as well as seeking feedback from another 10 member companies.

The company has also consulted widely with external water experts, and created a baseline assessment to identify water risks in the catchment area.

Anglo American hosted a three-day workshop which 21 participants across the company attended, ranging from those working in community development to those in geotechnics and hydrology.

Following the ICMM guidelines, they worked through the risks identified in their assessment to evaluate and prioritise these risks. Participants at the workshop then adopted a water plan, all while providing detailed feedback on the contents and process found in the guidelines.

ICMM is committed to reducing mining’s water footprint, and contributing in any way we can to help countries achieve the UN’s SDGs.

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