It is well known that mining operations alter and modify the environment where they take place. At the primary level and within the effects that can be generated are those that affect the environment:
- Negative effects on biodiversity
- Impact on water sources
- Subsurface infiltration
- Noise and vibrations
- Emission of particles that affect air quality
In addition, mismanaged mining can have an impact on nearby communities, causing problems such as:
- Changes in the social dynamics of populations
- Increased accident rates
- Community conflicts
- Damage to public infrastructure
Given this situation the question then arises: is it possible to exert mining that is environmentally responsible and at the same time productive and profitable? The answer is yes. There is a way to do things correctly. It starts with the application of international standards and best practices for mining that are committed to the development of communities and the environment.
These best practices are defined by ECLAC as those that “take into consideration models for management improvement, environmental and social management and performance of productive sectors, from experience and replicable success stories, taking into account the nature and specific conditions of each activity and its surroundings“. Best practices are based on a number of instruments and standards. Some of them are:
UN Global Compact’s principles No. 7, 8 and 9
Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) standards
International Council on Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) principles
World Bank standards
IFC Guides and Ecuador principles
ISO 14000 environmental standards
The AA1000 norm
The ultimate goal of these guidelines is to control, minimize and / or compensate for impacts on the environment and communities. Similarly, they lead to sound management of natural resources and ensure compliance with national laws and regulations.
The benefit to companies operating mines is significant because these best practices translate into cost efficiency, reduction in future risks and environmental and social liabilities, resulting ultimately in a good corporate image and reputation.
In short, sustainable mining is possible. For companies engaged in the extraction of minerals it is essential to seek proper advice in the abovementioned standards, in order to maintain a balance among the different entities involved or affected in the mining context.