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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Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.