Mining and metals companies have a responsibility to respect the human rights of the communities in which they operate, and the people they employ. We recognise that when the rights and interests of local communities are not properly taken into account, activities can potentially have an adverse effect on people’s health, livelihoods, safety, and security.
ICMM fully supports the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and through Principle 3 of our Sustainable Development Framework members commit to respect human rights and the interests, cultures, customs and values of employees and communities affected by our activities. We recognise that companies cannot ‘offset’ human rights abuses by performing good deeds in one area as compensation for harm done in another, and work closely with members to develop guidance for mining and metals companies and to implement good practice.
We believe that mining with principles means committing to respect the culture, customs and values of local communities, including indigenous peoples.
Engaging with respect
The use and activities of security personnel are a particular focus in this area. ICMM members are continually working to uphold the highest standards by applying good practice guidelines and providing rigorous training programmes for staff.
Freeport-McMoRan, for example, serves on the Voluntary Principles initiative Steering Committee and the Voluntary Principles Association Board of Directors. Established in 2000, the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) guides companies to maintain the safety and security of their operations within an operating framework that encourages respect for human rights.
Similarly, since 2004 Newmont has been actively involved with the VPSHR. In 2016, Newmont operations in Ghana expanded training to include more than just security personnel, with participants being given thought-provoking scenarios, such as situations that require the use of force and handling complaints and grievances related to human rights.
[Watch a video here to find out how Newmont are approaching human rights ]
Free, prior and informed consent
The mining industry operates around the world, in a range of different environments, and cultural settings. While host communities may differ in their cultural, linguistic, economic, and social characteristics, common to all groups is the expectation that their fundamental human rights will be respected.
Being sensitive to human rights is particularly important in regions that are historically associated with indigenous peoples. While indigenous peoples often have much to gain from the positive impacts of a mining project, they are also more vulnerable to adverse effects and direct and indirect impacts on their cultural or natural heritage.
Legislation in some countries requires mining companies to engage with indigenous peoples and, in some cases, to seek their consent before starting a mining operation on their land. But in most countries, neither indigenous peoples nor any other population group actually have the right to veto development projects that affect them. However, ICMM member companies have committed to work to obtain the consent of indigenous communities for new projects (and changes to existing projects) that are located on lands traditionally owned by or under customary use of indigenous peoples and are likely to have significant adverse impacts.
ICMM’s Good practice guide: indigenous peoples and mining provides guidance to companies on how best to manage mining-related activities that occur on or near traditional indigenous land and territory. The guide includes a series of tools for companies to use, such as building engagement capacity and how to negotiate in good faith. We know from experience that when companies actively engage with indigenous peoples they can form strong partnerships that result in significant benefits for all parties.
Teck, for example, has formalised its commitment to building strong and lasting relationships with indigenous peoples. Teck’s Indigenous Peoples Policy requires all its operations to ‘integrate indigenous peoples’ perspectives and traditional knowledge into company decision-making throughout the mining life cycle to enhance benefits of our activities and address impacts’, and to ‘work with indigenous peoples to achieve self-defined community goals that provide lasting benefits’, among others.
Dealing with integrity
There is clear evidence that through appropriate policy and governance frameworks, mining and metals operations can help bolster the delivery of economic and social rights through poverty alleviation, the provision of essential infrastructure and social investments. But equally, when the interests of local communities are not properly taken into account, industry can adversely affect people’s health, livelihoods, safety and security.
We encourage all mining and metals companies to respect the culture, customs and heritage of local communities, including indigenous peoples, in order to maximise mining’s contribution to sustainable development.