New UN-backed investor commission aims to raise mining sustainability standards by 2030

A new commission has been launched today (25 January) at the London Stock Exchange to address the systemic risks faced by the mining sector that challenge its social license to operate and the role it needs to play in providing the minerals for the low-carbon transition.

New UN-backed investor commission aims to raise mining sustainability standards by 2030

The Global Investor Commission on Mining 2030 is backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury – Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of Cape Town – Dr Thabo Makgoba.

It also 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 commission will pursue an ambitious agenda targeting sector-wide reform by 2030 to be supported by investors, banks, insurers and mineral demand-side companies.

It will carefully consider 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.

The commission will draw lessons learned from the recent investor collaboration following the Brumadinho disaster in Brazil, where a new global standard on tailings management was negotiated with industry and the UN, and a global institute announced to oversee independent auditing of individual mine site compliance with the standard.

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.

Adam Matthews – chair of the Global Investor Commission on Mining 2030 and chief responsible investment officer at the Church of England Pensions Board – said: “To achieve net-zero requires an expansion of mining. And yet, the industry will not be able to expand without managing inherent systemic risks from tailings dams prone to collapse, to the impact of automation on workforces, to the relationships with artisanal miners and where mining contributes to, or drives conflict.

“These are sector-wide issues that require systemic responses if mining is to secure the trust of society to catalyse the flow of capital required for its expansion.

“Working practically, transparently and in partnership with industry and other stakeholders, the new Commission aims to bring the finance and corporate worlds together to ensure the mining industry retains its social license as it scales to meet demand for the low-carbon transition.”

Angelica Amanda Andrade, whose sister was killed in the Brumadinho tailings dam disaster and who will be supporting the work of the Global Commission, said: “The issue of a responsible and ethical mining sector is a deeply personal one for me. For so long companies operated with poor standards and a lack of ethics that led to immense death and destruction that could and should have been avoided. We won’t accept that anymore. With mining being critical for society and for a low-carbon transition, more than ever we need to work together to implement changes towards a sustainable future where safety and respect to life are a priority.”

Makgoba said: “The tightrope that any mining company must walk in order to maintain their social license is increasingly tied up with whether they have a working social compact with the communities and broader society they exist in, as well as the social compact of the industry as a whole. The world needs the mining industry to safely produce the minerals critical to the life as we know and for the future. We all must find ways to ensure positive change and the pursuit of the common good in the mining sector so that it meets the weightier demands of our time.”

Welby said he “welcomes and fully endorses” the launch. “This commission represents a vital opportunity to ensure we can address the many systemic challenges that undermine the social license of the mining sector,” he said.

“Whilst there is good practice in the industry and new leaders emerging, the sector cannot and should not do this alone.  It must carry the confidence of many actors if it is to fulfil its future role to society and in providing the minerals for the low-carbon transition.

“We have a responsibility to address them together and to do so with a commitment that when we extract, we do no harm to people and the environment.

“Where that harm does occur, we must collectively work towards genuine reconciliation. And we must strive to have a transition that is based upon fairness and justice and not exploitation of the weakest. This is a striving that reflects God’s heart for his world.”

PRI chief executive David Atkin added: “Investors collective efforts can play an important role in driving change in the way corporate practices impact people and communities – and the way the corporate sector can increase their positive social impact as an integral part of their core business strategies.“

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