Benchmark Study of Environmental and Social Standards in Industrialised Precious Metals Mining
Solidaridad is pleased to release the report, “Benchmark Study of Environmental and Social Standards in Industrialised Precious Metals Mining” that compares eight leading standards for safeguarding people and the environment at industrial precious metals mines.
The purpose of the benchmark report was to identify an existing standard that could serve as the most effective tool for managing a wide range of environmental and social impacts at industrial precious metals mines. While the report focuses primarily on gold mining, much of the analysis applies equally to a broader range of mined minerals, as well.
In addition to comparing and ranking the standards as a whole, the report also includes rankings in a range of sub-categories. For instance, the authors were asked to evaluate whether one standard was particularly strong in the area of human rights, while another offered the best system for environmental assurance. This was important because some of the standards were designed to focus on only one category of impacts (e.g., the International Cyanide Management Code on cyanide use or the Global Reporting Initiative on reporting) and could be used in combination.
Solidaridad commissioned the independent report, authored by Estelle Levin Ltd. in the U.K., for programme planning purposes in 2010. However, we recognised early on that many stakeholders were looking for clarity on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the standards and might benefit from reading the report. We therefore decided to release it publicly in 2011.
The report reviewed, benchmarked, and compared eight standards commonly used at metals mines, based on their reputation for being “best in class” for their respective scope(s). These include:
- Equator Principles
- Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives Principles and Criteria
- Global Reporting Initiative Mining and Minerals Sector Supplement
- International Council on Mining and Metals Sustainable Development Framework
- International Cyanide Management Code
- International Finance Corporation Performance Standards
- Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
- Responsible Jewellery Council Code of Practices
The rankings were based on three factors: a numeric scoring (“benchmark”) of key characteristics of the standard; interviews with stakeholders; and a review of published literature that critiques the standards. Readers should keep in mind that some of the standards, such as the IFC Performance Standards, are currently undergoing review and may be revised in the near future.
Conclusions of the Benchmarking Process
The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) Code of Practices earned the highest score on the quantitative benchmark, followed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards and the Equator Principles.
It is important to note that the RJC Code of Practices is a new standard and no mining company has been certified to date (current mining company members have until December 2013 to do so). Despite its young age, RJC still outranked older standards, such as the IFC Performance Standards. This is due in part to the relative strength of RJC’s normative requirements and the fact that the Code of Practices incorporates in whole or in part other standards under review here, such as the IFC Performance Standards. However, RJC’s long-term effectiveness will depend on its ability to monitor and enforce member compliance over time.
Please view the benchmark rankings on page 8 of the report (page 14 in the online PDF). To review the rankings by sub-categories, please go to page 11 of the report (page 16 in the online PDF).
When stakeholders were asked for their opinions on the strength of the standards, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) ranked highest, followed by the IFC Performance Standards and, in a tie for third, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Stakeholders had varying degrees of familiarity with the standards and may not have had experience with newer standards, such as Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC).
To review stakeholder comments, please read page 57 of the report (page 62 of the online PDF).
Importantly, the authors found that there was significant room for improvement across all standards. So, while there were leaders overall and in specific categories, the mining industry still lags behind other industries in pushing for and adopting voluntary standards that safeguard people and the environment.
It is also important to note that little comprehensive research has been done on the actual effectiveness over time of these standards to prevent impacts at mine sites. The authors concluded the report by making recommendations to the standard-setting initiatives for future improvements on critical issues.
Read the benchmark study online
Please note: This report was revised and re-issued in December 2011 based on comments received after the report’s initial publication from the International Cyanide Management Institute, which maintains the International Cyanide Management Code, one of the standards reviewed in the report.
|Revised Solidaridad_Benchmark_Study_Revised_Final _Dec_2011.pdf||5.48 MB|