When it comes to sustainability in the extractives industry, purists might see a contradiction in terms. But if the interests of local communities are kept central, there is more chance net benefits will follow
Can the mining of metals and minerals – finite resources – ever really be sustainable? Some environmentalists argue this is impossible because of the loss of natural capital. But many economists, governments, NGOs and of course mining companies themselves take a broader view that includes economic and social criteria.
To them, sustainability in extractives is not only essential but also measurable, and is achieved when total gains outstrip total costs in all areas across the whole life cycle of any project from exploration to post-closure. In this way, loss of natural capital, they say, can be compensated by economic and social gains.
But for sustainability to have any chance of success, two conditions must be met locally: first, maintenance of essential life-supporting mechanisms such as air and water, and second, improvement of human welfare – and the latter can only be met if the identity and autonomy of local or indigenous communities are also respected and protected. Traditionally these conditions have not been fulfilled with extractive companies and they have met strong opposition from local people as a result, from Africa to North America, Latin America, Asia and Australasia.
June 2015, London
Adapt to low commodity prices • Minimise risk • Increase project value • Access capital & resources - 200+ Top level executives from Mining, Oil and Gas will debate and solve the key issues around sustainability and social performance