The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) recently issued the first draft of its Standard for Responsible Mining.  The Standard represents the first set of best practices for industrial-scale mining designed by representatives from multiple sectors and pertinent to all types of industrial mining worldwide.  In September, Anglo American announced that it had signed on in support of the new draft Standard.  The high profile support of Anglo American is attracting attention from across the mining industry.  Key features of IRMA and its draft Standard are set out below.

The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)

In 2006, the nonprofit organization Earthworks founded IRMA to develop standards for environmental and social issues related to mining.  IRMA encompasses a coalition of five stakeholder sectors: nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), mining companies, trade unions, affected communities, and downstream users (private businesses purchasing minerals for the products and services they provide).  Individuals from each of the stakeholder sectors comprise IRMA’s Steering Committee, which includes representation from Anglo American, Tiffany & Co., and the United Steelworkers of Canada.

Through multi-stakeholder collaboration, feedback, and endorsement, IRMA seeks to replicate for industrial-scale mining the successful sustainability standards developed in industries such as agriculture and forestry.  IRMA’s Standard development process will include two public comment periods followed by internal revisions by the IRMA Steering Committee.  In addition to developing the Standard, IRMA will create a pass/fail certification system, an independent third-party mechanism to verify implementation of the Standard, and a membership program to generate and maintain long-term support from all stakeholders.  IRMA is currently seeking stakeholder feedback on the first draft of the Standard and expects to launch a final mine site certification scheme in late 2015.

IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining― Draft Version 1.0

The first draft of the IRMA Standard covers all issues deemed relevant for responsible mining, including labor rights, human rights, indigenous peoples, transparency, conflict response, pollution control, and site closure.  The draft divides mine site requirements into the categories of Business Integrity, Social Responsibility, Environmental Responsibility, Reclamation and Closure, and Management Systems.  Each requirement includes specifications which operators must meet in order for a mine to earn an IRMA certificate of compliance.  Specifications include system requirements, such as operator policy statements, and performance requirements, which indicate required levels of site performance.  The IRMA Standard bridges the gap in existing standards by combining expertise across multiple sectors to develop practices applicable to all types of industrial mining around the world.

The deadline to submit feedback on the first draft of the IRMA Standard is November 22, 2014.  Stakeholders may submit comments on the IRMA website at www.responsiblemining.net. Following this comment period, IRMA will revise the Standard and release a second draft for additional public comment in 2015.