Magazine article New Internationalist

Trading Credibility: Accreditation Scheme for 'Good' Mines Meets with Community Distrust

Magazine article New Internationalist

Trading Credibility: Accreditation Scheme for 'Good' Mines Meets with Community Distrust

Article excerpt

IN mid-January this year the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) unveiled a project to certify mines deemed as `good' performers. The project involves some of the world's most controversial mining companies. Following a trial in Australia, WWF hope to establish a global mining-certification scheme emulating the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The concept behind certification schemes is simple. A council accredits a natural-resource company's source of supply if it meets set social and environmental criteria. Consumers in the affluent north then pay a premium for products from sources that are certified. In an attempt to ensure integrity in the certification, NGO members help set the standards.

In November 2002 the British-based Rainforest Foundation released a report - Trading in Credibility - documenting a more sobering reality. In October 1998 FSC accreditation was awarded to logging operations of the Indonesian state forestry company despite violence against local people and lack of legal logging rights. After protests from community groups the FSC certification was suspended.

`In some countries - Ireland, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand - the FSC appears to have actually undermined efforts at a local and national level to reform either specific companies or the overall legal framework for the forestry sector,' says Simon Counsell, the Executive Director of the Rainforest Foundation.

The MSC too is under scrutiny. In a global test case Barry Weeber, senior policy officer with Forest and Bird, appealed against accrediting the hoki fishery, which he describes as one of the `most destructive' in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In December 2002 the MSC rejected the appeal but conceded the certification body had not `fully implemented a precautionary approach'.

Increasingly, community groups are wondering whether certification schemes are more of a hindrance than a help in achieving higher social and environmental standards in the resource sector. …

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