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Microsoft, Tiffany & Co Lead Global Agreement on Responsible Industrial-Scale Mining

Mount Polley mine, site of a 2014 disaster in interior British Columbia, where millions of cubic meters of mine waste were spilled. | Image credit: Flickr/Creative Commons

Led by leading companies Anglo American, ArcelorMittal, Microsoft and Tiffany & Co — and after a full decade of consultation among large numbers of stakeholders from the mining industry, organized labor, nonprofits, impacted communities and businesses — a global Standard for Responsible Mining was released today. 

With growing awareness and demand for ecologically and socially responsible products, jewelers, electronics makers, the auto industry and others have sought assurance that minerals they purchase are mined responsibly. The standard seeks to emulate for industrial-scale mine sites what has been done with certification programs in agriculture, forestry and seafood. An online Responsible Mining Map was also launched today that will allow responsible producers and purchasers of minerals to demonstrate their commitment to a responsible minerals value chain and make contact to enable business relationships to develop. The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) is behind the effort.

The standard covers issues such as water quality and quantity; greenhouse gas emissions; and deforestation-linked practices including protected areas, biodiversity outside protected areas; Free, Prior and Informed Consent; and human rights and fair labor, among many other issues. IRMA’s purpose is to drive changes in mining practices with regards to harmful labor practices, human rights abuses, environmental degradation or other unnecessary negative impacts. For example, mining is one of the main causes of deforestation globally. A peer-reviewed article in Nature last year found that mining accounted for 9 percent of forest loss in the Amazon over the last decade. Large-scale accidents and disasters have taken lives and devastated watersheds, increasing public awareness of the risks of modern mining.

The Standard for Responsible Mining reflects the input from over 100 companies, organizations and individuals worldwide, and IRMA has also conducted two field tests of the standard to ground-truth it before release. The tests involved simulated mine audits in the US and in Zimbabwe with feedback incorporated into later drafts of the standard.

“As interest in the responsible sourcing of metals and minerals grows, it is important to have standards that meet the needs of the wide variety of customers that mining serves, and address the expectations of society as a whole,” said Jon Samuel, Group Head of Social Performance and Engagement at Anglo American.

“Microsoft believes that fairly-applied global mining standards such as those outlined in the Standard for Responsible Mining are essential to helping solve labor, human rights, and environmental issues at the far reaches of industry’s supply chains,” said Joan Krajewski, General Manager of Compliance and Safety at Microsoft. “Making progress on these important and challenging issues will require the efforts and engagements of many, which is why we play an active role in collaborative initiatives like the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance.”

Ultimately, the hope is that the standard will offer shared value for mining industry participants, while addressing purchaser demand for greater options in sourcing responsibly mined materials, and civil society desire for transparency and independent verification.  

Interested companies, communities and nonprofits can engage with the effort by visiting www.responsiblemining.net.


Lara Koritzke is a frequent contributor to Sustainable Brands and an expert on sustainability standards and market-based certification. She spent 11 years with Rainforest Alliance, leading their institutional partnerships area; and six years with ISEAL, the umbrella group for… [Read more about Lara Koritzke]


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