Minerals Extraction, and Development
Toward a Realistic Partnership
The potential for minerals development to affect both the long-term health of ecosystems and biodiversity has long been a public concern. This stems from the 1972 Club of Rome report, The Limits to Growth, which predicted the imminent depletion of the Earth's nonrenewable resources, particularly fossil fuels and metals. 1 Despite such warnings, the discovery of new oil and mineral reserves, in conjunction with technical change and improved recycling, has alleviated fears of nonrenewable resource depletion (Warhurst 1998b). Since then, the environmental debate has shifted and is now focused on preventing the depletion and degradation of renewable resources such as water, air, land, and biodiversity. This is reflected in a growing emphasis on “sustainable development, ” which highlights the inter- and intragenerational inequities resulting from the degradation of renewable resources and the relationship between economic and social activities and environmental quality. 2 Central to the sustainable development agenda is the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity from any negative effects of industrial development.
It is partly as a result of the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, in 1992, that governments are now implementing more stringent regulations regarding the sustainable use of natural resources. The development of national Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) and an increased requirement for prior environmental impact assessment (EIA), along with growing “voice of society” concerns focused on specific biodiversity hotspots, have obliged minerals companies to become more proactive in their approach to environmental management. While the Biodiversity Convention may