28 Feb 2023
Venue: International Environment House & Online | Webex
This briefing on the implementation of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) resolution on environmental aspects of minerals and metals management (UNEA 5/12), was held within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network. The Global Intergovernmental Meeting on Minerals and Metals will take place on 7 and 8 September 2023 in Geneva, back-to-back with the 2023 edition of the World Resources Forum.
About this Session
In its resolution 5/12, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) encouraged Member States, and invited relevant stakeholders along the full life cycle of minerals and metals, from both the public and private sectors, to align their mining practices and their investments in mining with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and with their obligations and decisions under multilateral environmental agreements, as appropriate. Moreover, the UNEA requested the UNEP Executive Director, subject to available resources, to convene transparent and inclusive intergovernmental regional consultations, including with relevant international organizations, with regional and multilateral environmental agreements, and with relevant stakeholders acting as observers, to feed into a global intergovernmental meeting, with the aim of developing non-prescriptive proposals to enhance the environmental sustainability of minerals and metals along their full life cycle, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The regional intergovernmental consultations will be convened from March to July 2023, with the global intergovernmental meeting following on 7 and 8 September 2023 in Geneva. This event, held a few months ahead of the first intergovernmental regional consultation, will provide updates on the implementation plan for resolution 5/12 and stakeholders’ mobilization in the process.
This session, convened with the co-chairs intergovernmental regional consultations on minerals and metals management in the framework of the Geneva Environment Network, discussed the implementation of UNEA Resolution 5/12 on Environmental Aspects of Minerals and Metals Management.
H.E. Saqlain SYEDAH
High Commissioner and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN Environment Programme
Chief, Resources and Markets Branch, UN Environment Programme
Programme Management Officer, UN Environment Programme
Deputy Coordinator of Legal Affairs Unit, Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Senegal
Environmental Affairs Officer, Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, UN Economic Commission for Europe
Vice-President, World Resources Forum
Associate Programme Lead Nature, UNEP Finance Initiative
Jodi-Ann Jue Xuan WANG
Coordinator, Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network
Senior Policy Advisor, Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development, Economic Law and Policy Program, IISD
Mining and Metals Industry Manager, World Economic Forum
UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights
National Focal Point (UNEA5/12), Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland | Moderator
— GENeva Environment Network (@GENetwork) February 28, 2023
Live on Webex
Live in the room (part 1 and part 2)
Welcome and Introduction
Laura PLATCHKOV | National Focal Point (UNEA5/12), Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland
Resolution 5/12 of the United Nations Environment Assembly, adopted in March 2022, invites stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to align their mining practices and their investments in mining with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNEA also requested UNEP executive director to convene a series of intergovernmental consultations, including with relevant stakeholders, with the aim of developing non-prescriptive proposals to enhance the environmental sustainability of minerals and metals. Those proposals will be considered at UNEA 6 in February 2024.
Today’s event will discuss the implementation of resolution 5/12; opportunities for stakeholders’ engagement and cooperation; and also identify synergies with this process. The topic of sustainable management of minerals has never been so high on the global political environment agenda and the reason is that minerals are essential for the future. The energy transition, infrastructure and digitalization processes, among others, represent greener solutions but they can also cause detrimental environmental impacts. With an expected 500 per cent increase in the demand for minerals, environmental challenges are going to be even more acute. This topic is relevant to all countries and as a country with low resources, Switzerland is well aware that this is not only a question of ecological responsibility but also serves economic interests since minerals are needed in almost every sector of the economy. Minerals and metals management also have social interests because of the direct impacts on human well-being. Ecological responsibility and socioeconomic interests are the backbones of Switzerland’s engagement in the process. The panel offers a multi-perspective outlook on the environmental sustainability of minerals and marks the relevant role of Geneva, which hosts environmental expertise activities and organizations active in this field.
H.E. Saqlain SYEDAH | High Commissioner and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN Environment Programme
It has been almost one year since resolution 5/12 was adopted at the fifth resumed session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2). In the past months, much work was dedicated to putting together the elements for the implementation plan of this resolution. The issue of minerals and metals management has not always been high on the agenda but is gaining momentum due to the importance these resources will play in the future. The resolution builds on UNEA resolution 4/19 on Mineral resource governance and is linked with sustainable, resilient and inclusive recovery in a circular economy and sustainable infrastructure. It acknowledges that clean technology is highly dependent on metals and minerals and that transitioning to clean technology is important for combating climate change. The resolution also provides a renewed opportunity to accelerate action and collaboration on minerals and metals. Indeed, member states and relevant stakeholders active along the life cycle of minerals and metals are encouraged to align mining practices and investments with the 2030 Agenda. It is of paramount importance that minerals for the transition will be developed in accordance with principles of environmental sustainability and responsibility, ensuring positive outcomes for people and the planet. UNEA is joining the long list of entities active on this shared commitment and understanding that business cannot carry on as usual. We must ensure that member states and stakeholders can join hands to strengthen the environmental aspects of minerals and metals and overcome regulatory and administrative capacity challenges. The success of the Intergovernmental Regional Consultations and Global Intergovernmental Meeting for UNEA resolution 5/12 on environmental aspects of minerals and metals management also relies on widespread engagement and participation.
Elisa TONDA | Chief, Resources and Markets Branch, UN Environment Programme
The subject of this resolution is important for the work of UNEP because, among other things, minerals and metals are an essential component of our lives and of the green economy transitions.
Each year, we mine around 150 billion tons of rock and produce 65 billion total tons of mineral products, 72 billion tons of waste rock, and 13 billion tons of mine tailing waste. The demand for these minerals will increase as we shift towards renewable energy.
According to the International Environmental Agency (IEA), in a scenario that meets the Paris agreement goals, the demand will increase to over 40 per cent for copper and other rare earth elements, to 60 to 70 % for nickel and cobalt, and to almost 90 % for lithium.
This demand is unavoidable. Solar photovoltaic plants, wind farms and electric vehicles generally require more minerals to build than their fossil fuel-based counterparts.
However, as countries accelerate their efforts to transition towards clean energy, they need to make sure that the increased extraction rates do not augment the stress placed on people and the environment in extractive locations.
This growing demand should not lead to augmented stress on people and the environments in extractive locations. As this sector touches upon the triple planetary crisis of pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change, UNEP is actively engaged in addressing it.
It is in this context and recognizing its connection with the three crises of pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change, that UNEP has identified the mining and metals sector as one of the sectors of focus for its Medium-Term Strategy 2022 – 2025. UNEP is providing Secretariat support to the process of implementation of this resolution.
The work of the Secretariat, represented by Sharon Gil, Charlotte Ndakorerwa and Angela Kariuki, relies on the technical support of UNEP-GRID Geneva, headed by Pascal Pedruzzi. Furthermore, UNEP is able to carry out its work thanks to the guidance of the two co-chairs of the Intergovernmental Regional Consultation and the Global Intergovernmental Meeting, H.E. Saqlain Syedah and Martine Rohn-Brossard, the Deputy Head of the International Affairs division of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment.
Update on the preparations for the implementation of UNEA resolution 5/12 on evironmental aspects of minerals and metals management
Charlotte NDAKORERWA | Programme Management Officer, UN Environment Programme
UNEA resolution 5/12 on the environmental aspects of minerals and metals focuses on the entire life cycle of minerals and metals and invites the participation of all stakeholders, from member states to international organizations and multilateral environmental agreements and more. The resolution requests UNEP to:
- Convene transparent and inclusive Intergovernmental Regional consultations with all stakeholders, which will then feed into a global intergovernmental meeting. The aim of these meetings is the development of non-prescriptive proposals to enhance the environmental sustainability of minerals and metals;
- Strengthen scientific, technical and policy knowledge with regard to sand
- Compile a report on knowledge gaps in relation to environmental aspects of tailings management.
UNEP began working on the implementation of the resolution last year, starting with an outreach exercise asking member states and other stakeholders to nominate focal points to be engaged in the process and participate in the intergovernmental meetings. At current, the engagement process ensured:
- The appointment of Pakistan and Switzerland as co-chairs for this process.
- The nomination of 47 national focal, with submissions still ongoing.
- Ongoing outreach events, like briefings and webinars, with member states and other but also other stakeholders. This include also informal opportunities to socialize and identify ways to advance the intergovernmental meetings
- Preparation of a background document to guide the discussions during the meetings, which will then be captured in a UNEP executive’s report by November 2023
Accredited organizations are also part of this process and accreditation through UNEP is suggested for obtaining an observer status, receiving background working documents and receiving the possibility to table written contributions to the process and participating in all of the intergovernmental meetings. Timely accreditation is suggested as the process generally takes three months.
Timetable for the Intergovernmental Consultations (OP2)
More practical information on the Intergovernmental Consultations are available online.
Objectives of the consultations
Development of non-prescriptive proposals that according to what emerged during the consultations of the previous UNEA resolution on Mineral resource governance could involve topics like:
- the role of minerals, incl. construction materials, in disaster recovery and planning; sustainability standards;
- enhancing ESG approaches;
- advancing international collaboration on environmental due diligence;
- gaps in rehabilitation approaches;
- ASM, mine closure, recycling, LSM;
- environmental aspects of frontier issues in minerals and metals.
The operating paragraph 4 of the resolution focuses on sand and the implementation of this part of the resolution is led by UNEP-GRID Geneva, which through its Global Sand Observatory is
- Providing policy and regulatory support to member states;
- Collecting data and issuing publications;
- Identifying and dissemination of best practices, standards and best solutions;
- Raising Awareness through webinars, media articles, events.
The resolution also requires the compilation of a report on environmental knowledge gaps in tailings management. The report will be finalized in October 2023 and is based on research and inputs that will be given during the intergovernmental meetings. The background to this report are:
- The Launch of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, co-convened by UNEP, International Council on Mining and Metals and Principles for Responsible Investment (August 2020)
- Development of a compendium by Global Tailings Review
- UNEP and PRI support the process to establish an independent and multistakeholder Institute to oversee the implementation of the Standard by mid-2023.
National Governments Implementation of UNEA Resolution 5/12
Khadija DRAME | Deputy Coordinator of Legal Affairs Unit, Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Senegal
The role of governments in the implementation of UNEA resolution 5/12 can be summarized in the following activities:
- Establishment of an enabling framework at the national level (designation of a focal point)
- Participation in the various regional consultations
- Adaptation of their mining policy to sustainable production and consumption patterns
- Proposition and identification of solutions to achieve the objectives of the Resolution.
Senegal is a mining country with seven mining regions, facing several environmental issues in this domain. The rehabilitation of mining sites is underfunded and lacks technical support to establish adequate plans. Then, the management of mining tailings is suffering from an infrastructure shortage. Extraction of marine sand also represents a challenge as it is conducted illegally despite being forbidden for environmental reasons. Furthermore, artisanal mining threatens to the environment and health as it takes place through the use of mercury and cyanide, which are dangerous chemicals.
As a mining state and co-sponsor of Resolution 5/12 on the Environmental Aspects of Minerals and Metals Management, Senegal is committed to the implementation of the Resolution and will host regional consultations.
Stakeholders Engagement in Enhancing the Environmental Sustainability of Minerals and Metals and Opportunities for Cooperation
UNECE Tackling Sustainability Through Resource and Tailing Management
Claudia KAMKE | Environmental Affairs Officer, Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, UN Economic Commission for Europe
UNECE is a regional commission with global outreach, legal instruments and frameworks. In terms of tools to tackle the sustainability of resource and tailings management, UNECE relies on the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) and the United Nations Resource Management System (UN RMS). UNECE also offers legal instruments to strengthen mine tailing safety and reduce accidental water pollution through the Industrial Accidents Convention, a regional instrument, and through the Water Convention, a global initiative with around 20 parties from outside the region. UNECE also offers assessments and recommendations to improve environmental policies through environmental performance reviews and these tools are available for countries beyond the region.
UNFC and UNRMS are global tools to manage natural resources in an integrated, unified and sustainable manner. They can be used by different stakeholder groups, like governments, industry, investors, and civil society. These tools integrate environmental social and economic objectives and are applicable to a wide range of topics like minerals, petroleum, nuclear and renewable energy.
Countries where UNFC has been applied:
UNECE multilateral environmental agreements
The Water Convention and the Industrial Accidents Convention established 25 years ago a Joint Expert Group that has developed different guidance materials and safety guidelines. Among these, the UNECE Safety Guidelines and Good Practices For Tailings Management Facilities were produced to reduce the frequency and severity of failures at tailings management facilities and endorsed for implementation under both the Water and Industrial Accidents conventions. The guidelines contain safety principles and recommendations for governments, competent authorities and operators. The TMF methodology developed to ease the practical implementation of the safety guidelines improved the understanding and identification of risks in the UNECE region, it resulted in the identification of 237 tailings management facilities in Central Asia out of which 25 with potential transboundary effects. Tailings management facilities are a matter of regional rather than national concern and have been applied also to map tailings management facilities in the Danube River Basin by the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR ). UNECE supports countries also in capacity-building to better understand and manage their tailings risks. Various on-site training tailings management facilities have been implemented in Central Asia like Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Romania and other countries.
Other UNECE Initiatives
- In 2020 parties to the Industrial Accidents Convention adopted Decision 20/1 on strengthening mine tailing safety within and beyond the UNECE region. It contains concrete actions that parties wish to take to further improve tailing safety, like implementing safety guidelines to improve interinstitutional coordination or reviewing their legislation and policies on maintaining safety. In terms of implementation, UNECE supports countries in the establishment of interinstitutional working groups on tailing safety and prevention of accidental water pollution, which serve as platforms for cooperation and policy dialogue on the subject matter and to review good practices and policies and legislation. For instance, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have successfully established these working groups last year and Uzbekistan is in the process of considering that.
- Because of climate change and more extreme weather events, TMF accidents are more likely to happen, thus efforts are ongoing to integrate also Natech (Natural Hazards Triggering Technological Disasters) risk management. To this end, UNECE supports countries in integrating these risks for example in their national self-assessments and action plans, as in the successful case of Kyrgyzstan in 2021, and regularly organizes seminars, like the one organized through the Joint Expert Group on Natech risks.
- UNECE conducts environmental performance reviews (EPRs), which include different recommendations, among others, on the Industrial Accidents Convention and tailings management. In 2021, the Convention supported Central Asian countries in developing specific action plans for the implementation of EPR recommendations related to tailings management.
- Another milestone in UNECE’s work on tailings management is the endorsement of a Roadmap for Action To Strengthen Mine Tailing Safety within and Beyond the UNECE Region.
The Road Map contains concrete actions for this and the next biennium and knowing that countries have different levels of implementation and pace in making progress, countries will focus on:
UNECE stands ready to support the implementation of the UNEA resolution 5/12 by contributing to the report on tailing knowledge gaps and management, but also by organizing expert dialogues. For that purpose, an online toolkit to assist countries in strengthening TMF safety and management practices has been made available online.
World Resources Forum: A Platform to Establish a Prolific Dialogue
Xaver EDELMANN | Vice-President, World Resources Forum
The World Resources Forum Association is an international non-profit organization that aims at empowering multi-stakeholder collaboration to improve knowledge, co-create solutions; and build capacity for fair and sustainable use of natural resources, bringing together science business governments and society.
It was founded in 2012 as a spin-off of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) and is supported by the Federal Office of Environment of Switzerland (FOEN). The Association is based on three pillars:
- The Forum, an inclusive space for solutions-oriented dialogue;
- The Projects, mobilizing concerted actions for sustainable resource use; and
- The Knowledge active in the co-creation of information accessible as a global public good.
Since 2009, the Association organized conferences in Japan, Switzerland, China, Peru, Australia and Costa Rica, trying to be in Switzerland at least every two years. This year’s World Resources Forum, taking place from 4 to 6 September 2023 in Geneva, will be held on the theme ‘Rethinking Value for Resource for Planetary Well-Being’. The WRF’23 takes place after the Regional Intergovernmental Consultations that will be hosted from March to July 2023 and sets the scene for the Global Intergovernmental Meeting taking place on 7 and 8 September in Geneva.
The Conference will address three tracks:
- Sufficiency from a consumer to a sufficient society;
- Value Chains: from extractive to regenerative value chains; and
- Digitalization: from growth to purpose
The value chains track shares commonalities with UNEA resolution 5/12, especially in its addressing of the following thematic areas: circular and regenerative economy; governance of raw materials value chains; responsible sourcing and life cycle approaches.
The 2023 WRF will be held in a hybrid format with the purpose of leveraging the benefits of meeting in person while ensuring accessibility on a global scale and lowering the environmental footprint. The conference will cover different formal and informal moments, including workshops, for which submissions are still open. A call for abstracts for international experts to present their work during the WRF’23 is also open until 10 March.
Important aspects that will be highlighted.
- Establishing adequate sustainability indicators which are easy to be applied and globally accepted through industries and countries.
- Standardization is needed, include work of ISO, TEC and ITU.
- Indicators essential for goal setting and measuring progress.
- Responsible Mining Foundation and the report they produced on Responsible Mining Index are good examples. RMI provides an excellent framework.
Environmental Sustainability of Minerals and Metals
Dennis FRITSCH | Associate Programme Lead Nature, UNEP Finance Initiative
UNEP FI is a partnership between UNEP and the financial sector. We work with almost 500 banks, insurers and institutional investors to develop the global sustainable finance agenda.
We do capitalize action across the financial system to align economies with sustainable development with the UN partner for the finance sector. We’ve established some of the most important sustainability-oriented frameworks within the finance industry to bring together the UN with a global group of banks insurers and investors. The Principles for Responsible Investment were mentioned earlier, but we have similar market-led and market initiatives for banking and insurance that cover most of the market globally.
What we do is we convene these financial institutions through our frameworks on a voluntary basis to work with us and each other to find practical solutions to overcome the many sustainability challenges facing the world today. Topics covered range from limiting greenhouse gas emissions, protecting nature, promoting a circular economy, and supporting financial inclusion.
These solutions we develop together with these financial institutions provide a blueprint for others in the financial sector to tackle similar changes the challenges and evolve their businesses along a sustainable pathway. The development, creation and adoption of such blueprints also informs policy makers concerned with such issues, particularly with what is considered appropriate for regulation for the finance sector at large.
We have some current work uh and some future work relevant to today’s conversation about minerals and metals.
Ocean Finance | It is a community of practice on sustainable blue finance or Ocean Finance, which is a subset of our wider 500 institutions strong membership that specifically focuses on issues relating to the ocean and trying to align financial activities with SDG 14. We convene banks, insurers and investors around the 14 sustainable blue economy finance principles.
What that means in practice is that we develop guidance with them. Our two main financial guidance (Turning the Tide: How to Finance a Sustainable Ocean Recovery & Diving Deep: Finance, Ocean Pollution and Coastal Resilience) published over the last two years focus on different blue sectors. Specifically on mining, I want to highlight two work streams: dredging, that is addressing in marine aggregate extraction — a harmful activity but is needed for some blue activities, like the installation of offshore wind installations and parks, for example.
Secondly, we also published a briefing paper for financials actors on deep sea mining, a very new topic and it’s not currently commercially taking place. However, developments point toward a potential commencement of deep sea mining for metals as early as July 2023. We found it necessary to develop a short guidance that really addresses the potential environmental impacts on the deep sea of this activity, but crucially, for our audience, also highlights the significant financial reputation and regulatory and operational risks of financing or supporting these activities as they currently stand in our plan.
We have come to the conclusion in this paper that financing deep sea mining activities in the current situation is not consistent with our sustainable blue economy finance principles. What this briefing paper does is it lays out how banks, insurers, and investors can focus efforts on alternative strategies that would reduce the environmental footprint of terrestrial mining, also supporting the transition toward a circular economy.
With regards to the high risks for financial institutions, at present there does not exist a robust precautionary approach for this activity to safeguard ocean health against the potential ecological and system impact of deep sea mining that is based on science. Specifically for financial institutions, there are a couple of quite high risks: reputational, lack of regulatory certainty (at least at this stage), operational (as this is quite a new undertaking as deep sea mining is not happening commercially) including questions on social license to operate and community consent, and negative impact on other sectors like fishing, shipping, subsea cabling, pharmaceutical and scientific research.
Task Force of Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) | Looking ahead into the future, the nature team of UNEP FI is also heavily involved in the TNFD. Some planned work this year related to mining: we are part of the TNFD Secretariat which is leading several pilot projects to implement this framework across financial actors last year. This year, we are trying to develop a framework that will allow financial actors to disclose what nature risks their portfolios are exposed to and what financial impact and loss of biodiversity would have on their bottom line. It’s quite crucial in terms of reporting, and we are planning to look at land-based mining portfolios with one or two financial actors in collaboration with the International Council of Mining and Metals.
Our focus will likely be around understanding current challenges for nature-related disclosure to the mining sector, including what information would financial institutions need for mining companies to make appropriate decisions, and what financial products are needed to push a transition to increase the nature of positive financial flows.
Role Of Children and Youth as Key Stakeholders on the Topic of Minerals and Metals for the Transition
Jodi-Ann Jue Xuan WANG | Coordinator, Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network
On behalf of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network, as well as the Children and Youth Major Group to UNEP, our gratitude for hosting this briefing has built confidence amongst youth that a globally coordinated efforts are entrained to build capacity and bridge knowledge gaps towards enhancing the environmental sustainability of minerals and metals for current and all future generations. Now, it’s essential that we prioritize their implementation in an inclusive, accessible and transparent manner across all segments of the value chain: from societal demand creation to waste management.
To ensure that intergenerational collaboration remains central to the operationalization of this resolution, on behalf of youth, we call on the following:
Intergenerational equity in principle and practice | In regards to mining activities, we strongly encourage all relevant stakeholders to embed intergenerational equity in principle and in practice, and acknowledge the permanent and irreversible effects of mining, especially deep sea mining. Natural resources are shared inheritance. From the deep sea to the living lands, we really must ensure that future generations are not deprived of their rights to prosper off to prosperous and fulfilling lives and to a clean and healthy environment.
We also advocate for the development of a resource inventory database covering land and deep sea areas maintained for open dissemination as a public good to guarantee access to real-time disaggregated data on environmental and social indicators in the areas of extraction. To echo the previous panelists, we also stress the importance of interoperability and consistency in standards and principles, and they must be co-developed with those most affected with the proliferation of national critical metal strategies.
Currently, it’s important that we avoid fragmentation. Interoperability is not only crucial for governmental collaboration but also such decision is useful for investors to allocate capital to companies abiding by the highest operational standards.
Greater value addition for mining communities | Secondly, along the metals and minerals value chain, the current momentum for increased renewable technologies adoption could actually improve the lives of millions of people in resource-rich countries if managed responsibly. We underscore that it is non-negotiable that mining communities capture greater environmental, social and economic value addition. Industrial upgrading countries that are home to principal reserves of minerals should result in increased public revenue, improved infrastructure, more decent jobs and increased spending on local businesses, health and education. This is especially the case for communities residing in mining areas. Ultimately, these measures will strengthen the social infrastructure and institutions in the promotion of a peaceful, just and inclusive societies that are integral to sustainable development.
Ambition towards realizing full metal circulation | Thirdly, in regards to the utilization of metals and minerals and waste management, we must set our ambition towards realizing full metal circulation through creating costs incentives and parity for circular goods and services and commercializing materials that are produced, used and recovered safely to reduce our linear demand for finite resources.
We do call on relevant stakeholders to conduct macroeconomic analyses of metal flow to identify the circularity gaps and develop regulations product design principles and processing technologies to bridge them. Our current linear model of metal production and consumption puts us at risk of repeating our mistakes with fossil fuels in the net zero transition. It’s vital to make an imaginative effort to consider the interests of future beings in present decision-making so as to create future-proofed policies on climate and environmental matters.
The work to strengthen environmental due diligence is already under its way and as said, we applaud the initiatives undertaken by multilateral organizations, such as OECD, the Commonwealth Blue Charter, and the UNECE’s recent establishment of the resource management young expert group in protecting our global commons in the transition while centering children and youth as key stakeholders. We strongly encourage the International Seabed Authority to accredit youth-based organizations in its governance processes.
Ultimately, this is about how we protect the wealth, the well-being and the prosperity of future generations, so we call on our actors to do the right thing for the future and of all human beings and all living creatures.
Children and youth, especially youth workers in the mining industry, indigenous youth, youth with disabilities, migrants and refugees, and youth from developing and least developed countries and other marginalized backgrounds must be and remain key stakeholders in this process,
We look forward to working with all of you on this critical topic.
Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF): Advancing good mining governance
Grégoire BELLOIS | Senior Policy Advisor, Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development, Economic Law and Policy Program, IISD
IGF is a global forum of mining producing countries from all over the world, which currently has 80 members. The role is to improve mining governance to help achieve the UN sustainable development goals.
IGF is a voluntary initiative that was created through the UN in 2005.12 mining countries gathered together to discuss and advance toward the sustainable development. It was funded by the Canada.
We also helped organize the annual meeting to help countries meet together and discuss these topics. In 2011, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has been involved to support the work of IGF, as a consultant initially, and in 2015, IISD gained the role of the Secretariat of the IGF. It provides additional resources to be able to provide more support towards member countries, such as in country assessments, different capacity building, technical assistance, guidance for governments, and gathering at different conferences to help disseminate information.
Member countries of IGF are quite widely spread all around the the globe. The main tool of the of the IGF is the mining policy framework (MPF) which has been developed in collaboration with the member countries in 2013. It’s designed to reflect governance standards that the governments ensure that their mining sector really contributes to sustainable development in their countries.
It’s organized around six main pillars: legal and policy environment, financial benefit optimization, socio-economic benefit optimization, environmental management, post mining transition, and artisanal and small scale mining. This is the main area all the work of the IGF is organized.
As it’s already 10 year old, the MPF is currently being reviewed and updated. We are in the consultation phase, so we encourage all to provide your input to this consultation. The final update will be released in the next Annual General Meeting in November 2023.
The IGF develops this document and guidance for governments on on environmental management and mining governance. It’s a set of recommendations and guidelines for governments, with the four main topics: water, biodiversity, mine waste, and emergency response. Based on these documents, there are specific tools that have been developed, such as training capacity, building technical assistance, and documents to aid the country to better advance their their own policies and regulation. We also published some case studies to help governments understand what’s happening in other places of the world, to help them better manage their natural resources.
Other tools developed IGF cover other aspects of the of the mining industry. There are three other formal IGF Guidance for Governments (on artisanal and small-scale mining or ASM, on local content, and on environmental and social impact assessments or ESIA). There are also a set of tools, toolkits, training, and capacity building developed.
We also provide other guidelines and guidance to governments on issues. such as a tax sessions, mine closures, gender, among other with specific documentation provided. We also do research on new technologies and its impacts on the mining sector. Climate change, critical minerals and any other kind of research that may interest the number of countries are also tackled — it is a demand-driven process so the countries that come to us and say they lack knowledge on this can be helped by the IGF.
World Economic Forum’s Mining and Metals Industry community
Tatiana AGUILAR | Mining and Metals Industry Manager, World Economic Forum
Three takeaways that I want to share:
- What do we do at the World Economic Forum (WEF)? | The World Economic Forum is an international organization for public-private cooperation. We have more than 700 partners, and that includes not only mining and metals companies or companies in other industries, but also civil society, academia, youth communities, international organizations, and we bring these stakeholders together to contribute to the improvement of the state of the world. This is generally what we try to do with all the initiatives and programs that we develop, and we partner with other organizations like you. For example, we have a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations on issues such as financing the Sustainable Development Goals on the 2030, which includes climate and energy transition.
- Our initiatives and workstream address SDGs. | We have been working on these initiatives for more than 50 years, but once the SDGs were put in place, it gave us a framework to work for the improvement of the state of the world.
- We develop cross-industry and multi-stakeholder initiatives and Partnerships. | The goal is to help the transformation of industries, and that includes mining and metals.
No single entity can improve the state of the world, and that is why we value the fact that we not only share information, but also propose or consolidate collaboration across different topics.
The Transformation of Mining and the 2030 Agenda
This is a general framework that shows the transformation of the materials industries, and this is also the case for mining. In general, all industries are transforming to be more responsible, more productive, and more resilient.
This transformation does not happen within the industry. We have some enablers, companies are usually working on those capital services technology, then the government plays an important role
in policy and regulation and then environment. Regarding the global landscape, we have recently seen the increasing importance it has. We are trying to work in initiatives that go and cross these socio-economic systems, because we also see that mining and metals have an opportunity to transform a mobility energy infrastructure.
Sample of relevant initiatives across the platforms
The first one is very relevant to the current context of securing minerals for the energy transition. Some of the organizations here have been involved in some of these discussions. We are trying to develop a risk management approach to the gap between supply and demand of critical minerals, not focusing on supply and demand, but focusing on the risks that come from that gap. So, we are already trying to work with different organizations to address those risks.
Scope 3 emissions in mining and metals is another initiative. We are trying to streamline the procedures in scope 3 emissions to see if that can help transparency in decarbonization and then reduction of emissions, which is the ultimate goal.
We have also a Net Zero initiative in steel in aluminum, we are also working in clean power for the future of industries which of course include Mining and metals. These initiatives are just an example of the initiatives that we have that are also involved with mining and the metal sector.
Strengthening collaboration in key topics
All these initiatives are, of course, related to the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda, and we are keen to work with you on any of them, so please contact us if you have any questions about the initiatives or the topics we are developing at the Forum. The next steps that we see in this collaboration are to continue to work on minerals for the energy transition and to work with some other organizations that involve different stakeholders to address these risks and hopefully have an alliance, a global collaboration platform to tackle these risks. In Scope 3 emissions, we are trying to reach out to the financial and regulatory institutions. We are trying to position the industry as a responsible enabler for the energy transition.
Human Rights and the Environment in the Extractives Sector
Marcos ORELLANA | UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights
The UNEA resolution discussed opens the door for a timely debate on minerals and metals. I will discuss three points on the preamble of the resolution.
Preamble 3 | Defines the scope of the resolution, which includes the full lifecycle of minerals and metals
In my last report to the UN General Assembly, it focused on toxics and indigenous peoples. It documented how the extraction of minerals and metals is outsized in the lands of indigenous peoples at 50-80%, and are often done without due regard to standards such as free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) or meaningful consultations, or adequate arrangements for equitable benefit sharing.
The impact of extraction is sizeable similarly on processing: the impacts on water pollution. More than 100 million tons of hazardous wastes are released to rivers and streams every year, including lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, chromium, cyanide, among others.
It’s not just extraction and processing, but also in refining. The resolution is quite important in terms of scope as many refineries, such as for gold, are found in industrialized countries. This resolution enables a North-South dialogue, highlighting the importance of supply chain due diligence and a need for a global partnership to address these issues.
Preamble 6 | Environmental challenges related to small-scale mining
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is by far the largest emitter of mercury to the global environment. This has disproportionate impacts on people who are in already vulnerable situations. Workers are in the fence line, but also children given their higher sensitivity, women, especially in child-bearing age, indigenous peoples that rely on fish that may be contaminated with mercury.
In September 2022, a thematic report to the Human Rights Council on ASGM presented an analysis of the gaps and shortcoming of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, with regards to ASGM as an allowed use for mercury. This is a shortcoming that needs to be changed.
In the debate followed, the argument that the problem is multifaceted and as such does not lend itself to simplistic solutions such as a ban or event criminal activity, was oftentimes encountered. With this logic, the use of criminal law to address environmental crime (such as in the case for CITES or in the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, or in the Montreal Protocol) would not have a place. There is nothing simple about environmental crime. The bottom line: we need to redouble efforts to make the promise of no more Minamatas a reality in the world.
Preamble 8 | Clean technologies and their importance for combatting climate change in the context of decarbonization
This is ongoing work for the Mandate on toxics and human rights. I will present a thematic report to be presented to the Human Rights Council in September on the interface between decarbonization and detoxification, the need for integrated solutions on both fronts. There is call for inputs on this topic.
Some of the challenges: some proposed climate solutions put forward are without regard to the full lifecycle impacts. There are also false solutions on the table such as generation of hydrogen using fossil fuels. In this context, we often hear the argument that given the existential climate crisis, environmental safeguards need to be waived, that there’s no time to conduct environmental impact assessments nor consultations, etc.
However, safeguards are critical to prevent environmental harm and thus to uphold the right to a healthy environment. The human right to science requires alignment between the science and regulatory responses. The implementation and adoption of laws require strengthening environmental rule of law.
The environment cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from human rights. The recognition of the right to a healthy environment at the global level opens the door for a properly framed debate.
This an opportune moment to be ahead of the curve to address the expected surge and increase in demand.
Laura PLATCHKOV | National Focal Point (UNEA5/12), Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland
The diversity of the panel shows really the importance and relevance of the topic to a large range of stakeholders. We heard a lot of about good work and initiative at local, national and regional level from UNECE and the IGF, as well as initiatives from the part of the financial community. In the forthcoming process, we really need to build on what exists, create these synergies, avoid duplication because it’s clear that it’s a global issue and we still have gaps.
In the coming months, the member states will develop those non-prescriptive proposals to enhance the sustainability of minerals. We saw in this discussion that the input and expertise and creative ideas from all stakeholders, civil society, businesses, investors and others are needed to fit into this process. We have to strive for ambitious proposals to address the full life cycle of minerals as mandated by the resolution and really have this more holistic approach to give the the right incentive to all actors across the value chain.
I would like to again encourage stakeholders to join the discussion, and also member states to nominate further additional focal points. We really look forward to the to continue the discussion during the regional consultation and also the global meeting in Geneva on the 7th and 8th of September.
- Letter from Executive Director regarding UNEA Resolution 5/12
- Presentations made during the event
- Resolution on the Environmental aspects of minerals and metals management (UNEP/EA.5/Res.12)
- Summary of resolution | Green Growth Knowledge Platform
- Mineral Resource Governance and the Role of Geneva
- World Resources Forum 2023