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IRMA drafts new standard for responsible mining

(Canadian OH&S News) -- The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) has released the first draft of a new international industry standard, Standard for Responsible Mining Draft v1.0, which tackles various issues, including...


(Canadian OH&S News) — The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) has released the first draft of a new international industry standard, Standard for Responsible Mining Draft v1.0, which tackles various issues, including occupational health and safety.

Published on July 22, Responsible Mining is a 171-page standard dealing with requirements for business integrity, social and environmental responsibility, management systems and reclamation and closure. It resulted from eight years of efforts by a steering committee of IRMA, an international association of stakeholders in the mining industry.

“It was a long time coming, but I’m very happy that it’s at this stage, and we’ll see where it goes,” said Alan Young, director of Ottawa-based natural resources consultancy firm Materials Efficiency Research Group and a member of the IRMA steering committee.

Responsible Mining is the first collaborative standard between mining companies, organized labour, environmental organizations and affected communities. The draft has been released to solicit feedback from the public, businesses and others.

“The next step is to get that feedback from leaders across all those sectors and to get a bit of a reality check,” explained Young. “Then we will take all that in and hopefully significantly improve the draft, and then we will come up with a proposed refinement, which will go out for one more set of consultation.”

Report covers inspections, oh&s reporting

The oh&s sections of Responsible Mining were based partly on the International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 176, the Safety and Health in Mines Convention. Chapter 2.2 of the standard covers hazard identification and risk assessment; prioritization of protective measures; communication and engagement with workers and others; worker protections; inspections, monitoring and investigations; health and safety reporting and document management; and exploration and planning.

“It’s also about much of the global south, where health and safety standards are not well developed, where the regulatory authorities to enforce health and safety may even be non-existent,” said Drexler. “We want to make sure that mining companies are held accountable even in the absence of regulatory authority.”

The United Steelworkers union (USW), which represents mining workers, supports the drafted standard.

“We are trying to provide a new way in which mining can proceed and be successful and, most importantly, be done in a sustainable way, socially, environmentally and economically, that benefits everyone,” said Joe Drexler, head of USW’s Canadian strategic campaigns department and one of two labour representatives on the steering committee. “So our interest has been from the labour side, to ensure that in the future, there will be a mining standard that is reviewed and assured and verified by an independent third party at mining sites.”

Drexler felt that the current draft was the best draft that could have been devised by the specific people involved. “It took compromise on all sides,” he said. “So we’re sending it out to other mining unions throughout the world. That’s our responsibility.”

The draft’s development was a lengthy process of negotiation between independent parties that have traditionally been at odds over mining responsibility, according to Drexler. “It has not been an easy process,” he admitted. “It’s been eight years of trying to build trust, to be able to have dialogue and discussions with parties that are sometimes at each other’s throats over different issues.

“To that extent, it’s been a remarkable process that we’ve been able to hang in there that long.”

Young said that the project had been spurred by the need for a jointly owned and held international standard for mining, one that various stakeholders across the industry would recognize.

“Having got that second round of consultation, hopefully we’ll have a second round of refinements, and then we hope to finalize that in the spring of 2015,” Young said. “We’re following guidelines of international best practice on establishing standards, and that’s what we’re walking through now.”

Standard for Responsible Mining is available online at http://www.responsiblemining.net/images/uploads/IRMA_Standard_Draft_v1.0%2807-14%29.pdf.