Sustainable development and minerals: measuring mining’s contribution to society
D. J. Shields, S. V. Šolar, 2005. "Sustainable development and minerals: measuring mining’s contribution to society", Sustainable Minerals Operations in the Developing World, B. R. Marker, M. G. Petterson, F. McEvoy, M. H. Stephenson
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Traditional development theory focuses on two goals, income growth and poverty alleviation, and many mineral-rich developing countries have depended on resource exploitation to achieve those goals. In reality, mineral-driven economies have often experienced less growth than mineral-deficient economies. Conversely, the potential positive contributions of mineral development are often overlooked in countries with limited mineral endowment. Such under- or over-emphasis on the minerals sector can be lessened by addressing mineral development within the context of sustainable development. Each country identifies sustainability goals, with respect to social equity, environmental health, and economic growth that are appropriate to its circumstances. The contribution of mineral resources to the achievement of those goals will be similarly context dependent. In this paper we discuss the concept of sustainable mineral resource management. We then describe how indicators of sustainability can be used to measure the contribution of the minerals sector to a country’s economic development and track progress toward its overall sustainability goals. We present an example of sustainable mineral management policy and related mineral indicators from a country with a transitional economy and limited mineral resources.
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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.