Sustainability can be described as a state in which humankind is living within the carrying capacity of the earth. This means that the earth has the capacity to accommodate the needs of existing populations in a sustainable way and is therefore also able to provide for future generations. Humankind is nowadays facing the fact that, with its intensive industrial activities, pollution, and resource exploitation has exceeded the earth’s carrying capacity. This means we must make strong and concerted shift of development in direction where earth can sustain humankind needs. This concerted and integrated action and change of direction can be referred to as sustainable development. Changes and integrated action can be first applied on micro level – sectors like mining industries, where cumulative effects of such small changes can give very good results, in terms of sustainable development, (B. Clayton et al, 2002). The Brundtland Commission’s (1987) vision of sustainable development is to meet the needs of the present generation without undermining the capacity of future generations to meet their needs. . Sustainable development can be looked at as a process; this process involves the economic, social and cultural aspects of mankind as well as the environmental health of the planet, (Brundtland, 1987). This report is to elaborate on the Mining and Minerals sector how Sustainable development can be applied to the sector to confront present challenges. Jonathon Porritt puts it: Sustainable development is the only intellectually coherent, sufficiently inclusive potentially mind-changing concept that gets even half-way close to capturing the true nature and urgency of the challenge that now confronts the world and there is really no alternative, (D.Clayton et al., 2002).
In the past decade, the mining and minerals industry has come under tremendous pressure to improve its social, developmental, and environmental performance, (http://ccsenet.org/jsd).
Like other parts of the corporate world, companies are more routinely expected to perform to ever higher standards of behaviour, going well beyond achieving the best rate of return for shareholders. They are also increasingly being asked to be more transparent and subject to third-party audit or review. In response, a number of companies, either independently or with other actors, is establishing ‘voluntary standards’ that often go beyond any law. But even so, some observers remain suspect that many businesses are merely engaging in public relations exercises and doubt their sincerity. In particular, the industry has been failing to convince some of its constituencies and stakeholders that it necessarily has the ‘social licence to operate’ in many areas of the world. Despite the industry’s undoubted importance in meeting the need for minerals and its significant contributions to economic and social development, concerns about aspects of its performance prevail. Mining, refining, and the use and disposal of minerals have in some instances led to significant local environmental and social damage. It is not always clear that mining brings economic and social benefits to the host countries, as the minerals sector sometimes operates where there is poor governance, including corruption, and is thus associated with it, (G.J. Coakley, 1999). In some cases, communities and indigenous groups near or around mines allege human rights abuses.
Many countries and communities depend on minerals production as a source of income and a means of development. And with growing trade liberalization and privatization, much of the investment in minerals exploration and production has turned to developing and transition countries. Mining is important in 51 developing countries – accounting for 15-50% of exports in 30 countries and 5-15% of exports in a further 18 countries, and being important domestically in 3 other countries. About 3.5 billion people live in these countries, with about 1.5 billion living on less than US$2 per day, (World Bank, 2002).
Minerals development can create many opportunities, including jobs, a transfer of skills and technology, and the development of local infrastructure and services. However, there is sometimes a lack of capacity, knowledge, and incentives to turn investment into development. The industry has generated wealth in direct and indirect ways but, it is alleged, there is a mismatch of opportunities and problems – the wealth often being enjoyed far from the communities and environments that feel the adverse impacts.
Sustainable development objectives
A review of literature on sustainability suggests that sustainability can be described in terms of social, economic and environmental states that are required in order for overall sustainability to be achieved. The World Summit on Sustainable Development Plan of Implementation provides range of sustainable development objectives that should be aimed in order to achieve sustainability.
Environmental Sustainable Development Objectives:
â€¢ Size, productivity and biodiversity: Ensure that development conserves or increased the size, biodiversity and productivity of the biophysical environment.
â€¢ Resource management: Ensure that development supports the management of the biophysical environment.
â€¢ Resource extraction and processing: Ensure that development minimizes the use of support of environmentally damaging resource extraction and processing practices.
â€¢ Waste and pollution: Ensure that development manages the production of waste to ensure that this does not cause environmental damage.
â€¢ Water: Ensure that development manages extraction, consumption and disposal of water in order not to adversely affect the biophysical environment.
â€¢ Energy: Ensure that development manages the extraction and consumption of resources in order not to adversely affect natural systems (Gibberd, 2005).
Economic Sustainable Development Objectives:
Vol. 3, No. 1 Journal of Sustainable Development, (http://ccsenet.org/jsd).
â€¢ Employment and self-employment: Ensure that development supports increased access to employment and supports self-employment and the development of small enterprises.
â€¢ Efficiency and effectiveness: Ensure that development (including technology specified) is designed and managed to be highly efficient and effective, achieving high productivity level with few resources and limited waste and pollution.
â€¢ Indigenous knowledge and technology: Ensure that development takes into account and draws on, where appropriate, indigenous knowledge and technology.
â€¢ Sustainable accounting: Ensure that development is based on a scientific approach that takes in to account, and is formed by, social, environmental and economic impacts.
â€¢ An enabling environment: Develop an enabling environment for sustainable development including the development of transparent, equitable, supportive policies, processes and forward planning.
â€¢ Small-scale, local and diverse economies: Ensure that development supports development of small-scale, local and diverse economies, (Gibberd, 2005).
Social Sustainable Development Objectives:
â€¢ Access: Ensures that development supports increased access to land, adequate shelter, finance, information, public service, technology and communications where this is needed.
â€¢ Education: Ensure that development improves levels of education and awareness, including awareness of sustainable development.
â€¢ Inclusive: Ensure that development processes, and benefits, are inclusive.
â€¢ Health, Safety and Security: Ensure that development considers human rights and supports improved health, safety and security.
â€¢ Participation: Ensure that development supports interaction, partnerships and involves and is influenced by the people that it affects.
This description provides simple definitions for sustainability and sustainable development. A useful aspect of the definition is that it provides both an ultimate state that must be strived for a swell set of actions or objectives, which if addressed and implemented, will lead towards sustainable development, (Gibberd, 2005).
Sustainable Development Framework for the Minerals Sector
Applying the concept of sustainable development to the minerals sector does not mean making one mine after another ‘sustainable’. The challenge of the sustainable development framework is to see that the minerals sector as a whole contributes to human welfare and well-being today without reducing the potential for future generations to do the same. Thus the approach has to be both comprehensive – taking into account the whole minerals system and forward looking, setting out long-term as well as short term objectives, (D. Clayton et al, 2002). Moving from the concept of sustainable development to action requires:
â€¢ a robust framework based on an agreed set of broad principles;
â€¢ an understanding of the key challenges and constraints facing the sector at different levels and in different regions and the actions needed to meet or overcome them, along with the respective roles and responsibilities of actors in the sector;
â€¢ a process for responding to these challenges that respects the rights and interests of all those involved, is able to set priorities, and ensures that action is taken at the appropriate level
â€¢ an integrated set of institutions and policy instruments to ensure minimum standards of compliance as well as responsible voluntary actions; and
â€¢ verifiable measures to evaluate progress and foster consistent improvement.
If the minerals sector is to contribute positively to sustainable development, it needs to demonstrate continuous improvement of its social, economic, and environmental contribution, with new and evolving governance systems. The sector needs a framework within which it should judge and pursue any development.
The Challenges of Implementation
One of the key challenges for minerals sector is implementation. I n other to facilitate putting sustainable development into practice in the mining and minerals sector, policy makers will need to select a mixture of the principles of sustainable development outlined above.
Putting sustainable development into practice also requires actors in the minerals sector to be publicly committed to explicit and well-understood goals and objectives. Leadership from the top is a must, as is the need to ensure that all employees understand what sustainable development entails. This is necessary not only for companies but also for government ministries and departments at all levels, as well as labour, civil society organizations, and communities. Capacity building is also a key to moving forward, (D.clayton et al, 2002).
The concept of sustainable development is not new for it brings together ideas from a long history of human development into one common framework. This is becoming an increasingly important guide and judge for many actors whether from government, industry, or civil society. There is little disagreement about the broad principles contained in the framework, although different groups and individuals accord different priorities to the various spheres economic, environmental, social, and governance depending on their interests and their level of understanding and implementation. These priorities will determine the paths of action for implementation of the principles. The differences do not detract from the high level vision of sustainable development, which allows for different iterative and ever improving approaches.
For improvement this actions have to be enforced:
â€¢ Consistency with the sustainable development framework;
â€¢ Continuous and clearly defined objectives and incentives to change towards better practice;
â€¢ SMART – specific, monitorable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound approach;
â€¢ Enforcing higher levels of trust and cooperation; and,
â€¢ Where possible, built on existing structures and institutions.
In many ways the picture today is already more positive than it was some decades ago. There remains much to be done in improving the sector’s contribution to all aspects of sustainable development. But the largest companies and their newest operations at least are now being held to higher standards. Indeed, the best mining operations are now in the sustainable development vanguard – not merely ahead of what local regulations demand, but achieving higher social and environmental standards than many other industrial enterprises.
· Brundtland: World Commission on environment and Development (1987). (pp.43).
· Dalal-Cayton.D.B and Bass.S (2002). The Nature of Sustainable Development Strategies.(pp.66-77,115,261).
· George J. Coakley, 1999. The minerals industry of Ghana in the US Department of the interior, US Geological survey, minerals yearbook. Area Reports: International 1997, Africa and the Middle East. Volume III
· Gibberd J. T., (2005). Developing a Sustainable Development Approach for Buildings and Construction Processes Smart & Sustainable Built Environments. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Chapter 27. (pp 300-310).
· Maja Mitich : Sustainable Approach to A Reform of Coal Mining Industry in Serbia. University of Singidunum, Belgrade, Serbia. http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/jsd/article/viewFile/4797/4461(Accessed: 06/05/2010).
· Vol. 3, No. 1 Journal of Sustainable Development, http://www.ccsenet.org/jsd (Accessed: 07/05/2010).
· World Bank – International Finance Corporation (2002) Treasure or trouble? Mining in developing countries. Draft.