6.0 Conclusions

This handbook provides guidance on how companies can use monitoring, auditing and reporting to achieve their sustainable development goals, with case studies illustrating leading practice approaches to monitoring.

Evaluating performance is an essential component of leading practice sustainable development in mining. Monitoring and auditing, together with accurate and transparent reporting, are the tools companies use for evaluating and improving performance in relation to meeting their objectives for the protection and re-establishment of environmental, social and economic values. Companies recognised for their leading performance not only fulfil regulatory requirements consistently and on time, but also frequently go beyond the minimum requirements for monitoring, auditing and reporting.

Leading practice monitoring design is based on accepted risk management procedures and sound scientific principles, with mine closure and the agreed end-use of the land in mind. It focuses on all aspects of sustainable development: environmental, social, socioeconomic, cultural and spiritual. Monitoring programs are designed in consultation with all interested stakeholders, with the involvement of community groups, NGOs and others, helping to ensure that all key elements and issues are covered. Techniques used include the best available methods, and staff safety is a primary consideration.

Monitoring links to research by identifying areas for further investigation and assessing the effectiveness of new procedures.

Monitoring programs should be transparent and provide data to stakeholders through appropriate reporting procedures, which in some cases might include online access to real-time air or water quality monitoring data. Independent external assurance is increasingly used to verify the quality and accuracy of reporting. Monitoring programs are regularly reviewed to ensure their current relevance by taking into account changes in mine plans, legislation, community circumstances, monitoring technology or any other relevant aspects.

Auditing provides a check on performance by comparing the current situation with agreed audit criteria. Internal audits are conducted by companies for management review and related purposes. External audits are conducted by parties external to the organisation (for example, where independent verification of performance is required). There is a variety of different types of audits, which may be mandatory or voluntary. All audits are based on agreed protocols and audit criteria. They may be designed to assess compliance with regulatory requirements, or performance in relation to implementing environmental and social procedures and management systems or meeting defined standards. Commonly, the reason for conducting an environmental or social audit is to assess risk and establish mitigation measures to minimise that risk.

The type of reporting varies, depending on the type of audit and its purpose; however, voluntary independent audits are increasingly being used to communicate performance to external stakeholders. Auditing can occur at the site level, or at a cumulative scale across multiple sites within a company, and it can also be used to evaluate the performance of programs. Maturity models are increasingly being applied as a risk assessment process and evaluative tool as programs become more developed.

Together, monitoring and auditing can be used to develop completion criteria and confirm that associated targets and milestones have been met.

Reporting systems for monitoring and auditing must be accurate and timely and address the information needs of all stakeholders. Feedback from monitoring programs should inform operational planning and decision-making.

Public reporting, when undertaken strategically, can help to manage sustainability resources within the organisation, identify gaps in sustainability information or data collection processes, and generate momentum for improvement to environmentally and socially responsible practices in company operations and processes.

Overall, the leading practice approach to monitoring can be summarised as follows:

  • Regardless of the size of the mining operation, a risk-based approach is used to ensure that site- specific monitoring programs incorporate appropriate monitoring elements, parameters, frequencies and applicable performance criteria on which to assess the monitoring data.
  • The relevance and quality of data produced, and the effectiveness of monitoring programs, are audited regularly.
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