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The concept of sustainability has been redefined over the past two decades, with growing realization that simply avoiding most impacts to human and environmental resources is not enough to counter the long-term losses created by current and past economic activities. The production of mineral resources and fossil fuels would seem to be activities that cannot, by definition, be sustainable, but extractive industries provide necessary contributions to society. By holding extractive industries to higher standards than we do today, they can become part of a globally sustainable approach that will benefit society far beyond the sites of resource extraction.

Truly sustainable living in the future can only be accomplished if the current effect of our presence is restorative (net positive impact) rather than just impact-neutral. One way for the mineral industry to participate is for companies to accumulate a capital fund (by saving a portion of the annual depletion) that is used to mitigate damage and restore habitat to a greater extent than would be required to mitigate impacts from current activities alone. This form of sustainability thus becomes restorative.

Restorative sustainability requires that all current impacts be evaluated using full-cost accounting. Global impacts cannot be ignored, and the values of priceless things must be honored by preventing their destruction. With respect to social resources, all stakeholders must have a say, and full disclosure is required. Active acceptance by society over multiple generations is important, and costs incurred to ensure true sustainability must be accepted as a cost of doing business.

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