New Responsible Mining Index highlights gaps in industry transparency and execution of policies

Many mining companies are not actually implementing their own policies concerning key commitments towards human rights and health and safety, according to a new assessment from the Responsible Mining Index (RMI) 2018.

The Responsible Mining Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands, released its first RMI report in April 2018. The report aims to reflect the Foundation’s support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, evaluating companies that produce 25% of all mined commodities globally on economic, environmental, social, and governance (EESG) issues.

The report says companies do not always reinforce their policies around EESG issues with “systematic, effective company-wide action,” revealing that there was little to no action taken where “companies would be expected to act.” Especially around human rights, there were minimal efforts by companies in monitoring mining’s impact on children or providing fair wages that are on par with living standards.

One of the main findings from the report disclosed transparency as the greatest factor keeping companies from maximizing their score. In addition, there was a lack of transparency within companies with regards to reporting their performance to other stakeholders and mining-affected communities.

Across the board, Anglo American was the top performing company in the RMI, ranking first in Economic Development, Lifecycle Management, and Community Wellbeing. The RMI recognized the company for having leading practices in socio-economic development planning, creating a systematic approach to responsible sourcing, and more. However, the company was noted to have limited results due to a “lack of evidence of public disclosure on a number of specific issues.” Information on the company’s air quality monitoring data and the beneficial ownership of its entities was not made available for its evaluation.

Following Anglo American, Newmont was first place for two thematic areas: Business Conduct and Environmental Responsibility, a category in which it is particularly strong. It showed evidence of commitment to fighting against climate change by measuring the potential impact of its operations on the environment, workers, and communities.  In terms of leading practices, Newmont has demonstrated their contributions to human rights issues when they conducted a review in 2015 to pinpoint problem areas. The company followed up with on-site checks to gauge and manage the severity of the issues they found, with its progress documented in an annual sustainability report.

Like Anglo American, their results were not as thorough as they could have been due to not “having systems in place to apply socio-economic and environmental criteria during investment decision-making processes, or to address the specific health and safety needs of women workers.”

Based on existing leading practices, the Index results give an optimistic outlook for the industry in realizing its goal for responsible mining. The Foundation acknowledges that a number of diverse companies have set an example for responsible practice on a variety of issues, including those where performance is considered to be generally weak – such as taking care of vulnerable groups affected by mining.