In September 2019, the World Gold Council (WGC) issued the Responsible Gold Mining Principles (RGMPs), setting out a framework for responsible gold mining across the mine life-cycle.

The WGC is the market development organization for the gold industry. Its purpose is to stimulate and sustain demand for gold, provide industry leadership and be the global authority on the gold market.

The WGC developed the RGMPs, working with its members (25 of the world’s leading gold mining companies) with the aim of setting out clear expectations for consumers, investors and the downstream gold supply chain as to what constitutes responsible gold mining. The WGC hopes that the RGMPs will be widely adopted, not only by its members, but by the industry more broadly. It also suggests providers of finance and capital use their influence to encourage adoption throughout the sector.

One of the stated aims of the RGMPs is to bring together a single ESG framework for a gold mining company to apply. There is, inevitably, some overlap with assurance procedures issued by other independent mining bodies (e.g. International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining (MAC-TSM) and the International Cyanide Management Code). However, the WGC advises that there is not intended to be a duplication of efforts and that gold mining companies may rely on existing processes to validate adherence to equivalent standards in the RGMPs.

The RGMPs focus on 10 key principles (covering governance, social and environment), with those 10 principles divided into 51 sub-principles. The RGMPs focus on governance first, as the implementation of good governance is considered a precursor to the implementation of the social and environment principles. The governance principles focus on an absence of corruption, engagement with stakeholders and an ethical supply chain.

The social principles focus on health and safety, human rights, labor rights and socio-economic advancement of local communities. The environment principles focus on environmental stewardship, biodiversity, efficient use of water and energy and combating climate change.

One of the notable sub-principles is a requirement for operations to be free from discrimination. This was a point of much discussion in a recent seminar on the RGMPs arranged by Women in Mining in London. By adhering to the RGMPs, gold mining companies will be required to demonstrate that they have implemented policies and practices to promote diversity at all levels of the company and to have identified and resolved barriers to the advancement and fair treatment of women, amongst others, in the workplace. The RGMPs represents one of the first industry frameworks to implement such diversity requirements.

Gold mining companies who wish to be recognized as implementing the RGMPs are required to obtain independent assurance as to their conformance. The WGC has suggested an initial implementation period of three years in recognition of the fact that it will take some time for gold mining companies to put in place the relevant internal systems, processes and policies to achieve conformance. In the first two years, implementing companies are required to simply report on their progress towards achieving conformance.

The RGMPs are supplemented by an assurance framework for the RGMPs, which provides guidance (including illustrative examples) on how an assurance provider can assure an organization’s conformance with the RGMPs.

The RGMPs, the assurance framework and the associated guidance are available on the WGC’s website.