Guest post written by Félix González Yagüe from World Economic Forum:
“Material is not created or destroyed, it is simply transformed”… Based on this principle, the human race has developed all the goods and technologies that are now used in everyday life, and to do so made use of the three kingdoms in which we operate: animal, vegetable and mineral. Of the three, the last-named is not only the one that provides an essential basis for the first two, it is a universal source of resources available to people. There is no sector or industry in our society in which products from the exploitation of mineral resources are not present. From electricity generation (oil, coal…) to the production of any commodity (plastics, ceramics, etc.) and all kinds of materials that make up our infrastructures (glass, concrete, etc.), communications (wiring, silicon, etc.) and even food production (mineral fertilizer).
Mining is an omnipresent and essential industry, around which a debate on the possibility of developing a sustainable exploitation of resources has begun. In principle, mining and sustainability appear to be opposing notions, but they could not be if a vision of 360 degrees is applied, not just including the sector itself but also its intermediate and end users and the society that is home to both of them. From this perspective, mining with 100% renewable resources could be considered, as an activity that would minimise the impact on the environment it operates in and boosts the development of the societies in which it takes place.
Over the last few decades, mining companies have made progress in knowledge and awareness creation around the balance between their economic needs, environmental considerations and the cultural traditions of the people who live in mining communities. In this respect, more constructive relations have been developed between the extractive industry and affected communities in recent years, based on respect, a real commitment and mutual benefit.
A protocol for the integration of local communities and mining (“Protocolo para la integración de comunidades autóctonas y actividad minera") emerged as a result of this trend, as a generator of beneficial relations between mining companies and other affected and/or interested stakeholders.
This work means that the problems associated with the development of a mining project can be approached from a multi-group vision, benefiting all parties involved:
Mining companies: They will have more detailed knowledge of the cost associated with managing communities affected by their projects. They may wish to internalise this knowledge and take it into account in the early phases of a project, prior to implementations in later stages that are often blocked by residents’ opposition.
Communities affected by mining activity: They will obtain in-depth knowledge on the advantages and disadvantages of mining, comparing agreements reached with mining companies with others previously implemented in other regions of the world.
Governments and NGOs: The process gives them an arbitration mechanism and a partial source of information, essential for solving conflicts of interest.
There are several initiatives currently under way to favour the integration of mining into society, throughout the phases of the life of a project (exploration, development, exploitation and restoration) and beyond, with the full involvement of other capacities generated in the industrial and social fabric that survives them.
Félix González Yagüe
Community Lead, Mining & Metals Industries
World Economic Forum
*For more information, see the article published in the newspaper ‘La Nueva España’: Un doctor diseña un sistema para valorar el impacto en las minas