The role of minerals in sustainable human development
Jeremy P. Richards, 2005. "The role of minerals in sustainable human development", Sustainable Minerals Operations in the Developing World, B. R. Marker, M. G. Petterson, F. McEvoy, M. H. Stephenson
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Sustainable mineral resources development can be seen as the equitable conversion of transient mineral wealth into durable social and environmental capital. In the past, this conversion has not been efficient or equitable, with benefits accruing mainly to First World investors and consumers by externalization of social and environmental costs to local people and places. Modern industry, led by large multinational corporations, is in the process of changing its modus operandi to embrace ideas of corporate and social responsibility. The damage from past practices to the developing world is severe, however, and may require measures beyond voluntary or current legal instruments to reverse degenerative trends. Central among these requirements is Third World debt cancellation. However, the mining industry can also contribute by fully internalizing the costs of mineral production, and paying a fair price for the resources it extracts; these internalized costs should be reflected in higher commodity prices. This can be achieved through a combination of financial instruments and incentives, innovation, and best practice, with essential consumer buy-in through increased awareness.
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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.