Lithium leader, SQM has commenced a third-party audit against what it says is the world’s most rigorous standard of best practices in environmental and social responsibility at industrial scale mines: the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)’s Standard for Responsible Mining.
According to a United Nations Environment Programme report published in 2020, IRMA “is the only mine-site focused multi-stakeholder standard for industrial-scale mining that offers independent external verification and certification, that requires corrective actions and continuous improvement”.
IRMA is also the only mine-site standard that requires community engagement in all steps of the process, an aspect of focus for SQM, the miner said. The IRMA standard has the most robust criteria related to fair labour and terms of work, occupational health and safety, and community health and safety, it added.
By commencing a publicly-noticed, independent third-party audit, the company can now participate as a Member in the IRMA scheme. This makes SQM the second lithium mining company and the first Chile-based mining company to initiate an independent IRMA audit and, through this, become a full IRMA Member.
An audit report will also be shared publicly upon completion, allowing reviewers to understand both strengths and challenges at the operation, and will guide improvements.
This membership is part of SQM’s established process of working to a high standard of transparency and public accountability in its corporate objectives on environmental matters, sustainable operations and social responsibility, it said.
At the end of 2021, SQM also announced it is participating in the UN’s Race To Zero program, and trialling Chile’s first high-tonnage electric truck to be used in low-emission mining operations.
SQM’s CEO, Ricardo Ramos, said: “This is a fantastic step forward for SQM in our ongoing efforts to continue to lead the industry in terms of sustainability commitments and public reportability of our ESG objectives. SQM’s IRMA membership represents the newest development in a slew of green initiatives, but we are not stopping here. Our aim is to achieve the IRMA Transparency Level by 2022 and IRMA 50 by 2025, and we are firmly optimistic that we can make the changes necessary to meet these carefully considered goals.
“This is an exciting time for SQM as we continue to explore innovative ways to make our lithium production more environmentally friendly, while listening and supporting our local communities.”