May 27, 2002

Mining sector issues Toronto Declaration on sustainable development

A conference on sustainable development in the global mining and metals industry culminated in the release of the Toronto Declaration, a nine-point commitment to enhancing the sustainability of this sector. The mid-May event, held in Toronto, was the third and final component of the three-year Global Mining Initiative (GMI).

The conference marked a first-ever dialogue between some 20 top executives from the mining and other industry sectors and mining-related officials from 25 governments including state ministers, industry association and academic participants, as well as leaders from 74 non-government organizations. Together, they focused on developing responses to challenges identified by the Mining Minerals and Sustainable Development Project (MMSD) project, another of the GMI's three central activities.

Sir Robert Wilson of Rio Tinto, who has headed the GMI and served as conference chair, said the value of the conference was that it provided the first forum of its kind for the industry to meet with its critics and conduct a thorough exchange of views on improved social and environmental performance.

"The barriers of distrust which have characterized the relationship between many of us are beginning to erode," he said. "In fact I think that in some instances they have probably disappeared. That bodes well for a more constructive future."

The GMI, launched in 1998 by nine multi-national mining companies, set out to redefine the role of the global mining industry in relation to sustainable development. In addition to the conference, the initiative involved the production of the MMSD and the creation of a new global leadership body for the industry, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).

The MMSD was an independently managed consultation which analyzed the challenges facing the industry and proposed ways of resolving the issues. More information on this initiative and its final report is available on-line at www.iied.org/mmsd.

Having fulfilled its mandate, the GMI-formed as a catalyst for change rather than an organizational entity-now comes to a close. The ICMM, based in London, England, assumes industry leadership on sustainable development. The work of the GMI, continuing through the ICMM, will contribute to the World Summit on Sustainable Development taking place in Johannesburg this summer. More information on the trade association is available on-line at www.icmm.com.

The conference culminated in the unveiling of the ICMM Toronto Declaration, formally adopted by the Council as a specific outline of its commitment to a more sustainable mining and metals sector.

"This is the first important step in this new era and is the commitment from the industry to improve its performance," said ICMM secretary-general Jay Hair. "The goal now is for all parties to establish a meaningful framework around which constructive engagement and real progress can occur in the future," he added.

The Declaration outlines nine areas where the industry will be developing program initiatives.

1. Expand the current ICMM Sustainable Development Charter to include appropriate areas recommended in the MMSD report.

2. Develop best practice protocols that encourage public reporting and third party verification.

3. Engage in constructive dialogue with key constituencies.

4. help members understand the concepts and applications of sustainable development.

5. Together with the World Bank, seek to enhance effective community development management tools and systems.

6. Promote the concept of integrated materials management throughout the minerals value chain wherever relevant.

7. Promote sound science-based regulatory and material choice decisions that encourage market access and the safe use, re-use and recycling of metals and minerals.

8. Create an emergency response registry for the global mining, metals and minerals industry.

9. In partnership with IUCN (The World Conservation Union) and others, seek to resolve the questions of protected areas and mining.

The Council recognized that artisanal and small-scale mining and legacy issues are important and complex. However, it said, government and international agencies should provide the lead on these issues.

Speaking during the final session of the conference, industry leaders concluded that it is imperative to continue the dialogue started in Toronto regarding ways to improve social and environment performance, negotiate agreement on protected areas off-limits to mining, and develop protocols with verification mechanisms.

More information is available from David Rodier at Noranda, 416/982-7347.

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