2.1 Guiding principles

The application of sustainable development principles to mining has undergone rapid evolution in the past decade, in concert with the global trend in commitment to sustainable development generally. Many of the formation guiding principles documents are still relevant.

The Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development Project report Breaking new ground (IIED 2002) explored in detail how mining could further contribute to sustainable development. The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) developed Enduring value: the Australian minerals industry framework for sustainable development to articulate and implement sustainable development within the Australian mining industry (MCA 2004). The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has also developed a sustainable development framework covering principles, public reporting and independent assurance (ICMM 2006; the principles directly relevant to this handbook are 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10). While not all mining companies are signatories to these values and principles, they provide useful guidance on what leading practice means.

A core principle in sustainable development is the precautionary principle, which is simply stated in the 1992 Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment as:

Where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation. (DEWHA 1992)

Monitoring and auditing are critical tools for demonstrating the effective implementation of sustainable development principles. The information they provide is crucial in assessing and managing the extent of impacts and hence supporting the application of the precautionary principle. This chapter describes the main methods and standards that provide guidance for incorporating sustainable development principles into performance evaluation programs, and hence the attainment of a leading practice approach.

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