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Mapping and Aligning Mining to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

March 31, 2021 / Admin

MINING & SOCIAL ISSUES with Ignatius Kamwanje
The Author is a Consulting Geoscientist with experience
in Mineral Exploration, Mining Geology, ESIA, Ground
Water Resources and Occupational Safety, Health and

In 2015, United Nations (UN) member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2015-2030 after relinquishing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The SDG agenda provides a successor framework for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that covered the period from 2000-2015. The SDGs represent the world’s comprehensive plan of action for social inclusion, environmental sustainability and economic development. Mining companies will be called on to extract responsibly, waste, use safer processes, incorporate new sustainable technologies, promote the improved wellbeing of local communities, curb emissions, and improve environmental stewardship. Mining companies committed to the SDGs will benefit from improved relationships with governments and communities, as well as better access to financial resources. Those that fail to engage meaningfully with the SDGs will put their operations at risk in the short and long term.

Meeting the SDGs by 2030 will require unprecedented cooperation and collaboration among governments, non-governmental organizations, Civil Society Organisations, development partners, the private sector and communities. Achieving the SDGs will therefore require all sectors and stakeholders to incorporate the SDGs into their own practices and operations.

Mining companies will be called on to extract responsibly, waste, use safer processes, incorporate new sustainable technologies, promote the improved wellbeing of local communities, curb emissions, and improve environmental stewardship. Mining companies committed to the SDGs will benefit from improved relationships with governments and communities, as well as better access to financial resources. Those that fail to engage meaningfully with the SDGs will put their operations at risk in the short and long term.

The mining industry has the potential to positively contribute to the SDGs. Mining can foster economic development by providing opportunities for decent employment, business development, increased fiscal revenues, and infrastructure linkages. Many of the minerals produced by mining are also essential building blocks to technologies, infrastructure, energy and agriculture.  However, mining has contributed to many of the challenges that the SDGs are trying to address – environmental degradation, displacement of populations, worsening economic and social inequality, armed conflicts, gender-based violence, tax evasion and corruption, increased risk for many health problems, and the violation of human rights. In recent times, the industry has made significant advances in mitigating and managing such impacts and risks, by improving how companies manage their environmental and social impacts, protect the health of their workers, achieve energy efficiencies, report on financial flows, and respect and support human rights. Importantly, mining companies’ positive contributions to the SDGs include both improvements towards the SDGs and the corresponding targets as well as preventing or mitigating negative impacts.

While the mining industry is diverse, the scope and nature of typical mining activities highlight some common opportunities to leverage and contribute to the SDGs. Opportunities for mining companies to positively contribute are found across all of the goals and individual companies will need to do the analysis to understand how their business can make an impact. A company’s specific actions and opportunities will depend on the local social, political and economic context, the mineral resource base, the phase of mining activities (mineral exploration, development, production, mine closure).

Three key areas, where sustainable development can be applied in mining assert the cooperation and integration of technical and economic activities that were agreed as necessary to ensure economic growth, ecological protection of natural resources and environment, and social development including safety at workplaces and community development.

(A). Mapping Mining to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

1. Social Inclusion

Mining can significantly impact local communities, bring economic opportunities, but also brings challenges relating to livelihoods and human rights:

(a) SDG1 (End Poverty), SDG5 (Gender Equality) and SDG10 (Reduced Inequalities):

 Mining generates significant revenues through taxes, royalties for governments to invest in social-economic development, in addition to opportunities for jobs and business locally. Mining companies can take an inclusive approach by working with communities to understand the mines’ actual and potential positive and negative impacts. Companies can also support participatory local decision-making processes regarding the mining operations, the equitable allocation of benefits and the resolution of grievances, and identify and expand opportunities to strengthen the voice and influence of marginalized groups, including women, to ensure that inequalities are reduced, rather than reinforced, by the economic opportunities a mine may bring.

(b)  SDG16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions)

 Mining can contribute to peaceful societies and the rule of law by preventing and remedying company community conflict, respect for  human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples, avoiding illicit transfers of funds to public officials or other persons, ensuring transparent reporting of revenue flows, and supporting the representative decision making of citizens and communities in extractives.

2. Environmental Sustainability

Mining activities normally cause impacts on land, water, flora and fauna, climate and people that depend on these resources:  

(i) SDG6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG15 (Life on Land)

 Mine development requires access to land and water, presenting significant adverse impacts on lands and natural resources that can be mitigated or avoided.

(ii) SDG7 (Energy Access and Sustainability) and SDG13 (Climate Action)

 Mining activities, are energy and emissions intensive, presenting opportunities for greater efficiency as well as expanding access to energy

3. Economic Development

Mining can have a local, regional and national impact on economic development and growth that can be leveraged to build new infrastructure, new technologies and workforce opportunities

(a) SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth)

Mining can generate new economic opportunities for citizens and members of local communities, including jobs, training, and business development relating to mining operations, associated service providers, or new local economies linked to the mine.

(b)  SDG9 (Infrastructure, Innovation and Industrialization) and SDG12 (Responsible Consumption and Production)

Mining can help drive economic development and diversification through direct and indirect economic benefits and by spurring the construction of new infrastructure for transport, communications, water and energy. Mining also provides materials critical for renewable technologies and the opportunity for companies to collaborate across the supply chain to minimize waste, and to reuse and recycle.

Achieving sustainable development is challenging and the mining industry must ramp up its engagement, partnership and dialogue with other industry sectors, government, civil society and local communities. To realize the full potential for contributing to the achievement of the goals, mining companies must continue to work to integrate changes into their core business and, along with the mining industry as a whole, bolster collaboration, partnership and meaningful dialogue with government, civil society, communities and other stakeholders.

(B). Aligning mining issues to Sustainable Development Goals( SDGs)

(i) Mining and Poverty eradication (SDG1)

  • Disclose details of payment to host governments(PWYP) through royalties and taxes
  • Supporting non mining Social Livelihoods like food security and water supply to communities
  • Championing inclusive employment by engaging locals.
  • Provide training and  mining expertise to locals for a successful succession plan

(ii) Mining and zero Hunger (SDG2)

  • Explore synergies through agriculture and innovations and transparent management of water resources
  • Keep land/ farms free of pollution
  • Partnering with agriculture to support food security and prevent malnutrition

(iii) Mining, good health and well-being (SDG3)

  • Championing Occupational Safety and Health  in the mining workplace
  • Prevent occupational  diseases like TB, Cirrhosis and prevalence of STIs etc through counselling and other programs
  • Prevent toxic pollution in air and surrounding environment

(iv) Mining and quality education (SDG4)

  • Upgrading local skills thru provision of training, apprenticeship and graduate programmes. etc
  • Provide opportunities for collaboration with universities to design mining programmes in their curricula
  • Train for sustainable livelihood opportunities beyond mine closure

(v) Mining and Gender equality (SDG5)

  • Provide opportunities for women in mining
  • Practice gender inclusion across the project life cycle
  • Establish gender sensitive grievance mechanisms and health related issues

(vi) Mining, clean water and sanitation (SDG6)

  • Water conservation and recycling of wastewater
  • Water/air quality monitoring
  • Water management through alignment with government policies.
  • Support local participation in capacity building of water management practices.

(vii) Mining and affordable clean energy (SDG7)

  • Improve energy efficiency
  • Incorporate renewable energies
  • Explore co financing programmes in energy

(viii) Mining decent work and economic growth (SDG8)

  • Provide steady income through employment.
  • Enhance trade and create small companies to supply products to the mine
  • Create mining towns/urbanization.

(ix). Mining Industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG9)

  • Transfer technologies and introduce new innovations
  • Develop infrastructure like water systems, buildings road upgrades
  • Support surrounding and local industries in supply chain.

(x) Mining and reduced inequalities (SDG10)

  • Establish inequality related risks and establish baseline welfare statistic before mining commences
  • Champion inclusivity by employing, training and employing even the vulnerable, marginalized people
  • Encourage participation of communities in revenue collection, budgeting etc.

(xi) Mining and sustainable cities, communities (SDG11)

  • Discourage chemical, physical and water pollution from urban mining activities through unnecessary waste disposal occurring close to cities
  • Establish rehabilitation of mined areas through re-afforestation and create urban green cities.
  • Provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, people with disabilities and the elderly.

 (xii)Mining and responsible consumption, production (SDG12),

(xiii)Mining and climate action (SDG13),

(xiv)Mining and life below water (SDG14),

(xv)Mining and life on land(SDG15)

(xvi)Mining, peace, justice strong institutions (SDG16),

(xvii)Mining and partnerships for goals (SDG17)

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