Is the mining sector key to achieving Sustainable Development Goals?
Artisanal and small-scale mining offers opportunities to generate jobs, reduce poverty, and provide livelihoods, but this sector has been largely ignored by policy-makers and donors. Those were the thoughts of Yanchun Zhang from UNCTAD’s Special Unit on Commodities.
However, she also highlighted the often-poor management of the sector which leads to serious health and environmental risks.
“Artisanal gold mining, which accounts for more than 10 percent of the global gold supply, releases an estimated 1,000 tons of toxic mercury per year," she said.
She was speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF). The forum brings together 250 participants from 39 member and 14 non-member countries as well as representatives from international organisations, industry associations, companies and civil society.
The three-day AGM in Geneva discussed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as development of the mining sector while working to enhance capacity for governance at all stages of the mining life cycle.
What is Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development?
IGF emerged from the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa after delegates recognised the challenges and opportunities related to mining and sustainable development.
It is aimed at enhancing capacities to achieve sustainable development objectives through good governance in the mining sector. IGF is devoted to optimizing the benefits of mining to achieve poverty reduction, inclusive growth, social development and environmental stewardship.
The IGF has a flagship policy guidance and assessment tool, the Mining Policy Framework (MPF). This framework sets out objectives and processes for good governance, focusing on key areas such as Legal and Policy Environment, Financial Benefit Optimisation, Post-Mining Transition, Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining and Environmental Management.
United Nations conference on Trade and Development Propsoerity for All
UNCATD is an organisation that supports developing countries by prociding access to the benefitis of a globalised economy more fairly and effectively. This is achieved through analysis, consensus-building and technical assistance allowing them to use trade, investment, finance and technology as vehicles for inclusive and sustainable development.
The organisation is made up of 194 countries around the world and hopes to provide prosperity for all, working closely with governments and partnerships with the private sector and civil society to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Takeaways from the event
The main talking point of the AGM was how the activities of the mining sector could be harmonised with the 17 SDG’s, in particular clean water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth, prevention of tax evasion and creating better synergies among different parts of government, leveraging public and private finance, sharing expertise and promotion international collaboration.
The MPF was highlighted as a key opportunity to further these goals, revealing a number of strengths of the MPF as a sector-specific framework for achieving them. A key highlight was suggesting the sector could ensure integrated social, economic and environmental assessments.
There was also a focus on the value that the MPF assessment process itself holds for participating countries, and then shifted to how countries have integrated assessment findings and strengthened capacities into mining law, policy and institutions.
Looking to the future….
Mining continues to play a key role in the economic growth of several resource-rich developing countries, but this growth has often failed to generate any meaningful benefits for the countries' populations. Artisanal mining may offer opportunities in this respect.
"As a labour-intensive mining process widely conducted on an informal basis, artisanal and small-scale mining is known to generate jobs, reduce poverty, and provide livelihoods for millions of people," Ms. Zhang said in her closing remarks.
"To a large extent, artisanal and small-scale miners remain ignored and marginalized by policy makers, donors, and the general public," she added.
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Global iron ore production to recover by 5.1% in 2021
Global iron ore production fell by 3% to 2.2bnt in 2020. Global production is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7% to 2,663.4Mt between 2021 to 2025. The key contributors to this grow will be Brazil (6.2%), South Africa (4.1%), Australia (3.2%) and India (2.9%). Key upcoming projects expected to commence operations include South Flank in Australia (2021), Zulti in South Africa (H2 2021), Serrote Da Laje in Brazil (H2 2021) and Gudai-Darri (2022), according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Vinneth Bajaj, Associate Project Manager at GlobalData, comments: “Declines from Brazil and India were major contributors to the reduced output in 2020. Combined production from these two countries fell from a collective 638.2Mt in 2019 to an estimated 591.1Mt in 2020. The reduced output from the iron ore giant, Vale, was the key factor behind Brazil’s reduced output, while delays in the auctioning of mines in Odisha affected India’s output in 2020.
“Miners in Australia were relatively unaffected by COVID-19 due to effective measures adopted by the Australian Government, while a speedy recovery in China led to a significant 10.4% increase in the country’s iron ore output.”
Looking ahead, the global iron ore production is expected to increase by 111.3Mt to 2,302.5Mt in 2021. Rio Tinto is expected to produce up to 340Mt of iron ore, while BHP has released production guidance of 245–255Mt, supported by the start of the Samarco project in December, which is expected to produce between 1–2Mt.The company has retained its guidance for Australian mines at 276–286Mt on a 100% basis, due to scheduled maintenance work at its ore handling plant and tie-in activity at the Area C mine and South-Flank mine.
Bajaj added: “The remaining companies are expected to produce more than 600Mt of iron ore, including FMG, whose production is expected to range between 175–180Mt supported by its Eliwana mine that commenced operations in late December 2020, and Anglo American, which is expecting to produce between 64–67Mt. Vale is expected to resume 40Mt of its production capacity, taking its overall production capacity to 350Mt in 2021, with production guidance of 315-335Mt.”