Akin to certification schemes in use today in organic agriculture, responsible forestry and sustainable fisheries, the new standard will allow responsible producers and buyers of minerals to demonstrate their commitment to a responsible minerals value chain.
The standard stems from the growing consumer awareness and demand for ecologically and socially-responsible products. To meet the changing dynamic, jewellers, electronics businesses, auto makers and others have sought assurances that the minerals they purchase are mined responsibly.
Supported by major players such as Microsoft, ArcelorMittal, Anglo American and Tiffany & Co, IRMA conducted two field tests at mine sites in the US and Zimbabwe to ground-truth the standard. IRMA auditors reviewed company documentation, made first-hand observations at the mine sites, and conducted interviews with company representatives and other stakeholders to verify the requirements in the standard are clear, practicable, and measurable.
"As interest in the responsible sourcing of metals and minerals grows it is important to have standards that meet the needs of the wide variety of customers that mining serves, and address the expectations of society as a whole," Anglo American group head of social performance and engagement Jon Samuel said.
Microsoft's general manager for compliance and safety, Joan Krajewski, echoed Samuel's sentiment. "The standard is essential to helping solve labour, human rights, and environmental issues at the far reaches of industry's supply chains."
The best-practice approach takes into consideration elements such as health and safety for workers, human rights, community engagement, pollution control, mining in conflict-affected areas, rights of indigenous peoples, transparency in revenue payments from companies to governments, and land reclamation once mining is done.
The standard is not simply a pass/fail system, instead focused on transparency, where different levels of performance are recognised and continuous improvement is encouraged, but where certification is still available for those industrial-scale mine sites meeting all major best practice requirements.
The standard is for mine sites, not mining companies, and will not certify energy fuels such as uranium, thermal coal, oil or gas.
Full certification will be offered in late 2019, based on the learning from mines engaged in self-assessment and auditor-verified scoring in 2018 and early 2019.