We define sustainability in mining as mining and mineral development that meets the growing needs of all communities while maintaining a healthy environment and vibrant economy for present and future generations.
The Criteria in Sustainability in Mining can be applied to mineral exploration and mining projects/operations as follows:
- Health and Safety:The project/operation is acting to ensure the health and safety of workers and the community.
- Effective Engagement: The relationships with those affected by a project/operation are characterized by integrity and trust.
- Respect for Indigenous Peoples:The project/operation respects the rights, culture and values of Indigenous Peoples.
- Environment: Actions are being taken to ensure the maintenance and strengthening of environmental integrity over the long term within the region of influence of the project/operation.
- Full Mine or Operation Life Cycle: A full mine or operation life cycle perspective is being applied for planning and decision making that spans exploration through post-closure.
- Resource-use Efficiency: The project/operation is seeking to minimize resource inputs—energy, water, reagents, supplies, etc.—while also minimizing contaminant outputs to air, water and land.
- Continuous Learning and Adaptation: The uncertainty inherent in mining operations is recognized, and a commitment to continuous learning is displayed.
- Benefits: The project/operation is enhancing the potential for creating economic, social and cultural benefits for the local community or region.
Minerals are essential for modern living, and mining is still the primary method of their extraction. To date, it appears that the main constraints to sustainability in the mining sector derive from the ever-increasing demand for mined resources, the consumption of resources (mostly energy and water) needed to extract and process metals, and the increasing pollution generated by the extraction process. This holds true for both large-scale, often multinational corporate, operations as well as for small-scale or artisanal ventures.