Mineral resource governance in the 21st Century


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Mineral resource governance in the 21st Century

Authors: Elias T. Ayuk, Antonio M. Pedro, and Paul Ekins

Publication date: 2019


Minerals and metals underpin national economies, provide crucial raw materials for industrial activities, and are inputs to almost every sector of the global economy. Demand for extractive resources will continue to grow on the back of emerging economies with expanding and increasingly affluent and urban populations and a global transition towards low-carbon but metal-intensive energy production technologies. This is despite efforts to decouple economies from resource use and towards greater recycling. The frequently severe and enduring environmental impacts of mining highlight the need to carefully balance such activities with stewardship of other valuable natural resources and the environment including ecosystems and biodiversity, and the rights of local people and communities.

Decision-making in the extractive sector is shaped by a complex array of governance frameworks and initiatives operating along highly globalised mineral value chains. There is an urgent need to coordinate and reform this governance landscape to address enduring challenges such as commodity price volatility, lack of linkages between mining and other economic sectors, inadequate management of environmental impact, and socio- and geo-political risks of mining.

The report maps over 80 existing international governance frameworks and initiatives which focus on delivering overlapping subsets of the 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development, but do not currently operate in a sufficiently coordinated or integrated manner. In this context, the report calls for a new governance framework for the extractive sector referred to as the “Sustainable Development Licence to Operate” and including consensus-based principles, policy options and best practices that are compatible with the Sustainable Development Goals and other international policy commitments.

The report discusses practical actions to improve the international governance architecture for mining to enhance its contribution towards sustainable development. The proposals include reaching an international consensus regarding the normative content and structure of the Sustainable Development Licence to Operate informed by expert inputs from a “High-level Panel on Mining for Sustainable Development”. It further considers the creation of an International Mineral Agency to share relevant information and data. Governments could also reach bilateral and plurilateral agreements regarding security of supply of raw materials and resource-driven development. Periodical reporting of progress towards sustainable development could be enabled through a Global “State of the Extractive Sector” review or equivalent process.