The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance

In June 2006, representatives of mining companies, trade associations, retail jewellers and NGOs met in Vancouver, Canada to discuss the potential development of responsible mining performance standards and a system to independently ensure compliance with them. The Vancouver Dialogue meeting was the culmination of a more informal series of prior meetings among a limited number of companies and NGOs. The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) was created as a result of the Vancouver Dialogue.

Participants in the Vancouver Dialogue expressed support for an independent, third party assurance system which would ensure that mines operate in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. Recognizing the need for such a system, they agreed on the following goals:

  • The IRMA will outline a system to independently assure conformance to a clear set of performance standards which will demonstrate to communities, governments, consumers, and the public that a mine has been developed and operated in a responsible manner
  • The IRMA will draw upon and be guided by other distinct, but complementary, efforts that have been completed or are underway within the mining sector and other sectors, such as the ICMM and its principles for sustainable development, the Framework for Responsible Mining, the Mining Certification Evaluation Project, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices Code, and the International Cyanide Management Code
  • The IRMA process will be fully transparent to all stakeholders
  • The IRMA will be led by a broadly-based multi-sector group.

An IRMA Co-ordinating Committee (RCC) was established to co-ordinate the affairs of the Initiative. The RCC was tasked with finalizing the Vision and Mission Statements developed during the Dialogue as follows:

Vision – Mining will be consistent with healthy communities and environments, andleave positive legacies.

Mission – To develop a multi-stakeholder generated and supported assurance programme for environmentally and socially responsible mining that:

  • Is independently verifiable
  • Ensures the fair and equitable distribution of benefits to communities (including First Nations and indigenous peoples), while respecting and protecting their rights
  • Responds effectively to potentially negative impacts to the environment, health, safety, and culture
  • Enhances shareholder value.

The IRMA intends to build upon a number of activities, initiatives, processes and projects, which preceded the Vancouver Dialogue. These resulted in tools that can be used in the establishment of an assurance process, which could create value for mineral product companies, their shareholders, and other stakeholders. Yet none of them are sufficient to stand alone as a basis for a comprehensive programme/system for assurance at a mine site level.

IRMA Participants felt that a robust assurance system that effectively and efficiently measured compliance against an agreed set of performance standards would result in genuine added value.

The Participants represent a wide range of NGO, community, retail, and industry perspectives. IRMA seeks to be open to participation from companies and stakeholders with direct involvement in these issues. While wanting to be inclusive, participants also recognize that a process needs to be established to review and approve potential participants based on consistent criteria. Therefore the IRMA Coordinating Committee will seek to develop and establish just such a process. The group noted that regional realities – specifically those in the North and South – will need to be considered, and geographic balance should be sought in future discussions. Given the differences and sensitivities inherent in diverse geographies, the development and application of standards should be undertaken with an eye toward adaptability to the regional or local context.

If the IRMA is to be successful and create value for its stakeholders, it must achieve outcomes that can be supported by all stakeholders, and to that end, the Participants agreed to work within the spirit of a set of principles described below. The RCC will operate within the same spirit.

Although Participants may disagree with elements of the outcomes, the goal is to achieve at least a critical mass of players needed to advance to the next step. Participants may also agree to disagree on some decisions. In such cases, the reasons for disagreement and possible ways forward shall be identified in an effort to build critical mass. Participants will recognize and seek to follow the following principles:

· Each Participant has an obligation to engage in a constructive manner by:

  • Fully exploring issues and searching for mutually acceptable solutions in a problem-solving atmosphere
  • Articulating interests, proposing alternatives, listening to proposals and endeavouring to build agreements.
  • Each Participant has the right to expect:
  • Adequate time and opportunity to become informed and to discuss issues as appropriate to their relative complexity and importance
  • A transparent articulation of areas of agreement and disagreement
  • Reasonable and timely opportunity to review and comment on draft outputs and substantive decisions of the IRMA. All documents and other outputs will be considered drafts until each participant has had a reasonable opportunity to consult with her/his constituencies
  • Respect by other Participants of his/her opinions and the right to be heard.
  • When unable to convey support of an outcome by the home constituency, a participant has an obligation to:
  • Explain how the issue is of importance to that constituency whom she/he represents
  • Describe how that constituency would be adversely impacted
  • Suggest an alternative that takes into account the interests of other constituents
  • Prior to reaching an agreement, all Participants collectively will have the obligation to review the draft agreement with their “constituency”
  • All discussions on a possible outcome package are tentative until:
  • agreement by a critical mass is reached, including the possibility that a critical mass of participants come to the conclusion that agreement is only possible on some items
  • or a conclusion that agreement by a critical mass cannot be reached.

In order to meet the needs of all stakeholders (i.e. mining companies, trade associations, labour, NGOs and civil society groups, communities, retailers, investors and insurers, governments, and others) such a system should:

  • Be designed in a straightforward and open manner, (i.e. so that all stakeholders have the information they need to make decisions about sourcing, investing, regulatory approval, sanctioning, etc.)
  • Include “certification” standards – establish measurable, leading edge best practices against which performance can be measured and independently verified
  • Allow for ”continuous improvement” – create incentives for and recognition of improved performance at existing mines that are on a pathway toward certification, or those that may never achieve a certification standard (but where improvement is possible)
  • Create a transparent reporting system.

The RCC was established to co-ordinate the affairs of IRMA, including its management and administration. The initial membership of the Committee was agreed during the June meeting as follows:

  • Three members from a mining industry perspective: Mick Roche (BHP Billiton), Dave Baker (Newmont), and Anne Marie Fleury (ICMM)
  • Four members from an NGO and community perspective: Steve D’Esposito (Earthworks), Marta Miranda (WWF) and two remaining community or NGO representatives still to be identified
  • Three members from a jewellery retail perspective: Dee Breazeale (Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club), Michael Rae (CRJP) and Rob Headley (Tiffany & Co).

The Participants expect that the organizational structure will be developed and operated with a view to keeping it as simple and flexible as possible.

Working groups may be established by the RCC utilizing the following criteria:

  • The task, membership, and timeline of these working groups should be clearly identified at the time they are established. When they have completed their mandate they will be dissolved
  • Those invited to serve on working groups may be persons other than the initial IRMA Participants
  • Working groups shall inform and support the work of the RCC, and the Participants. The purpose of the working groups is not to reach decisions, but to facilitate decision-making by the RCC and the IRMA by providing information that may include options and recommendations. At the June IRMA meeting, the Participants provided the RCC with a list of initial tasks and guidance to finalize an organizational plan for the IRMA and operating procedures for the RCC, and develop a work plan for the activities to be undertaken within the IRMA.

Participants at the June IRMA meeting agreed that:

  • The development of standards will require consideration of underlying issues that reflect diverse and sometimes conflicting interests
  • There is sufficient background material on many key environmental, social, and governance issues to begin establishing a “core” set of standards for “responsible” mining
  • Not all issues have been sufficiently considered, researched, analyzed or tested to enable the development of a draft standard immediately.

As a starting point, participants discussed the following issues and agreed that IRMA will seek to write a standard for each issue (listed here in no particular order of importance).

· Transparency of revenue and payments

· Government capacity to monitor/ oversee mine sites

· Territorial/indigenous peoples’ rights/access to land

· Free prior, and informed consent of communities

· Community capacity to engage effectively/consultation

· Child labor/human rights

· Involuntary resettlement

· Artisanal mining

· Loss of livelihood

· Legacy sites

· Reporting/Information disclosure at mine site

· Protected areas

· Biodiversity protection

· Perpetual water treatment

· Financial surety and assured closure plans

· By-product stewardship and management

· Riverine tailings disposal

· Submarine tailings disposal

· Shallow marine tailings disposal

· Emission discharge controlsThe RCC has been mandated to continue its work until July 1, 2007 at which time

progress toward achieving the above-mentioned goals will be reviewed. At this time, the

Participants will determine whether the IRMA should continue, based on a review of its effectiveness in the preceding 12 months.