Australian Performance: An International Perspective

Article excerpt

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), based in London, is a CEO-led organisation dedicated to economic progress and environmental and social responsibility. How does it consider progress in the Australian resources sector?

ICMM members hold the view that the mining, minerals and metals industry, acting collectively, can best ensure its continued access to land, capital and markets, and build trust and respect, by demonstrating its ability to contribute successfully to sustainable development. Their vision is 'a viable mining, minerals and metals industry that is widely recognised as essential for modern living and a key contributor to sustainable development'.

The Council believes that improving sustainable development performance requires an integrated package of activities around key principles, supported by public reporting, verification systems and the dissemination of good practice. In May 2003, ICMM's members committed to implement 10 sustainable development principles covering the social, environmental and economic aspects of their performance.

During 2004, ICMM worked in partnership with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)--an international organisation established to lead industry reporting on sustainability--to develop a Mining and Metals Sector Supplement to the GRI 2002 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. In January 2005, the ICMM Council approved the supplement and agreed to report in accordance with the guidelines. This support for the GRI guidelines is the largest by any single industry sector.

Ecos asked Mr Paul Mitchell, ICMM Secretary General, about the Council's perspective on progress towards sustainable development in the Australian mining and metals sector.

'To a large degree, the Australian mining sector has embraced the concept of sustainable development,' he said. 'This is a sensible response to the concept's widespread international acceptance by governments and communities--for example, the OECD's Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises strongly endorse the goal of sustainable development.'

He said, 'Australian miners perform particularly well in environmental management, possibly in response to the emphasis placed on environmental aspects under the Commonwealth Government's ecologically sustainable development (ESD) program. Australia could justifiably claim to be an international leader in mining environmental management and it has made a significant contribution in this area to the development of international best practice.

'The social and economic aspects of sustainable development have received less emphasis in Australia generally and this is reflected in the mining sector,' Mitchell says.

'There is less in the way of industry--government--community partnerships for development than is found in some other parts of the world, particularly in developing countries. However, there are particular areas where Australian miners are demonstrating leadership. One is in relations with the Indigenous community, where trust has grown significantly, and many mutually beneficial partnerships have been formed. …