Sustainable Minerals Operations in the Developing World: introduction
B. R. Marker, M. G. Petterson, F. McEvoy, M. H. Stephenson, 2005. "Sustainable Minerals Operations in the Developing World: introduction", Sustainable Minerals Operations in the Developing World, B. R. Marker, M. G. Petterson, F. McEvoy, M. H. Stephenson
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Sustainable development requires an appropriate balance between social, economic and environmental well-being, now and for the future. Since most minerals are non-renewable resources, sustainability of supply can only be addressed by extracting, processing and distributing raw materials in the least environmentally damaging ways, using minerals wisely, and recycling as much as possible. However, there also is significant scope for improved sustainability in terms of economic and social aspects.
Minerals are essential raw materials but high-quality deposits have become depleted in many developed countries. These countries have increasingly turned to developing countries for supplies and it is in these that most high-quality untapped future prospects remain. For countries with limited export opportunities, minerals are often a mainstay of the domestic economy. However, low selling prices may reflect limited environmental regulation and low wages. This can lead to charges that the rich countries are exporting their environmental damage to, and exploiting, poorer countries. As more countries develop, the global demand for supplies of essential raw materials increases, and resources will be depleted more quickly. Therefore, sustainable minerals supply from the developing countries is an important global issue.
In this Special Report, general aspects of sustainable minerals operations in the developing world are reviewed by Petterson et al., Hobbs, and Richards while the remaining papers consider specific issues in more detail. Hobbs, in particular, emphasizes the need to give proper weight each to human capital, financial capital, manufactured capital, and environmental capital in any full analysis as a context for sustainable development and effective aid.
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Sustainable Minerals Operations in the Developing World
The sustainable development of minerals, which are non-renewable resources, is a major challenge in today’s world. In this regard the true definition of sustainability’ is a debating point in itself: can such a concept exist with respect to non-renewable resources? Perhaps the ideal sustainability model is one that minimizes negative environmental impact and maximizes benefits to society, the economy and regional/national development. Developed and near-developed economies rely for commodity supplies on developing countries where major mining operations are often a mainstay of the domestic economy. Limited environmental regulation and low wages lead to charges of exploitation. Also, large numbers of people have no alternative to living by informal, often dangerous, ‘artisanal’ mining. This Special Publication gives examples from developing countries at all scales of mineral extraction. The volume reviews environmental, economic, health and social problems and highlights the need to solve these before sustainability can be achieved. The better solutions require mutual understanding, through full involvement of all stakeholders, education, training and investment so that small-scale ansd artisinal mines can grow into well-managed operations. At larger scales, most major interantional mining companies have now inoproved their practices and are monitoring their progress, although there is no room for complacency in this rapidly changing area.