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Towards the summit

TWO workshops to be held in Perth next week will ultimately contribute to a world summit on sustainability in Johannesburg in September.

Part of an intense worldwide industry initiative – the Mining Minerals and Sustainable Development project - the workshops will consider a draft report on ensuring the sustainability of the minerals, metals and mining sector in Australia and continue an in-depth look at sustainable development in indigenous communities.

The MMSD project’s Australian draft report has been prepared from workshops involving a wide range of stakeholders and a review and synthesis of seven substantial research projects, all in the past 14 months.

An extension of this process, the three-day international indigenous communities and mining workshop, will also analyse stakeholder views and seek to establish a sustainable development of indigenous relations agenda to be included in the final report.

The pace and process will continue with the final version of the Australian report contributing to the global MMSD report, the focus of the Global Mining Initiative conference in Toronto in May.

This global report will also form the basis of the International Institute for Environment and Development’s industry presentation to the Johannesburg summit, on the 10th anniversary of the first world sustainability summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Australian MMSD regional coordinator Bren Sheehy said stakeholder sophistication regarding minerals operations had been steadily increasing over the past two decades, and had raised expectations of the industry.

After implementing major industry-wide change to address environmental concerns during the 1980s, mining companies became alarmed in the late 1990s at new threats to their existence, this time through the potential closing off of markets by regulatory policies mooted in European Union discussions.

Informal chief executive officer discussions at the 1999 World Economic Forum grew into a concerted push for the survival of the minerals and mining industries worldwide and produced the industry body known as the Global Mining Initiative, led by Anglo American, BHP-Billiton, Codelco, Newmont, Noranda, Phelps Dodge, Placer Dome, Rio Tinto and Western Mining Corporation.

The GMI determined major industry challenges impinging on sustainable development, including the development of national economies, leadership in environmental management, land management, access and use, consumption and market sustainability, and access to information.

But the premier factor affecting sustainability, the responsibilities of – and relationships among – companies, governments, communities and financial, consulting and insurance institutions, was seen as priority business.

Cooperative engagement of these groups was envisaged as the major strategic solution and, through the IIED, the MMSD project was created, with the aim of bringing them together.

Enthusiastic support was soon realised – in substantial financial form from major world banks – and the process, rather than the final report and world summit presentation, may now prove the ultimate benefit.

MMSD global project director Luke Danielson has spoken of increased awareness of a global connection within an industry imperatively focused on local operations, while Mr Sheehy talked of new networks and relationships in and around the industry.

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