Mining giants plot course to ‘nature-positive’ sector by 2030

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), which comprises more than 20 of the world’s largest mining firms, has developed a new set of principles aimed at delivering a nature-positive sector.

The principles aim to catalyse action from corporates to transform the sector by improving the health, diversity and resiliency of nature and ecosystems.

Established with feedback and engagement from civil society, academia, Indigenous representatives, and investor and disclosure bodies, ICMM’s new commitments set out a five-point plan for nature. The key aims of the five-point plan are:

  1. Protect and conserve pristine areas of the natural environment, including a ban on mining and exploration in World Heritage Sites and legally designated protected areas
  2. Achieve at least no net loss of biodiversity at all mine sites by closure against a 2020 baseline.
  3. Develop new partnerships to halt and reverse nature loss across the supply chain.
  4. Restore and enhance landscapes near operations, including with Indigenous Peoples, land-connected peoples and local communities.
  5. Catalyse wider change for nature recovery.

The ICMM’s president Rohitesh Dhawan said: “The mining industry owes its very existence to nature. At a time when the health of our natural world is in peril yet the demand for critical minerals is set to soar, we have committed to significant collective action to help create a nature-positive future. These commitments build on the significant individual goals and actions of ICMM members over several decades, including habitat conservation, species protection, and landscape restoration.

By 2050, the World Bank forecasts a 500% surge in demand for metals and minerals such as lithium, nickel and graphite, used to produce the clean energy technologies needed to meet Paris Climate Agreement goals.

As miners scale production to meet demand, they must do so responsibly and without harm to communities and the environment – or risk conflict and opposition from host communities that will in turn undermine the global climate transition.

Financial backing

The Global Investor Commission on Mining 2030, also known as the Mining 2030 Commission, was launched in January 2023. It has the backing of the global investor network the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and is being advised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The aim of the Commission is to deliver sector-wide reform by 2030 – supported by investors, banks, insurers and mineral demand-side companies.

It is currently examining the standards, practical steps and investment needed to secure mining’s future, recognising the central role the mining industry must play in the transition to a low-carbon economy and the vulnerability of supply chains to mineral demand.

A key focus of the work of the group will be to identify gaps in global best-practice standards across social and environmental systemic risks including artisanal mining, waste management, biodiversity protection, child labour and the role minerals play in driving conflict.

In November, more than 80 leading asset owners and fund managers with nearly $11trn in assets under management pledged support for the Commission.

“There is no escaping that the act of mining directly affects nature, which is why the cornerstone of our commitments is to ensure at least no net loss of biodiversity at all mine sites by closure against a 2020 baseline,” Dhawan added.

“We have committed to take steps in our value chains, landscapes, and the wider systems in which we operate so that the total impact of our actions contribute to a nature positive future. These will be taken with the critical participation of Indigenous and land-connected peoples, and local communities, whose rights, values, and knowledge will be central to our actions.”

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