16th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF)
Mining and COVID-19: From Crisis to Sustainability
20-22 October 2020 | Online
Summary highlights of the meeting
Highlights for Thursday, 22 October 2020
On the third and final day of the AGM, participants discussed community engagement, gender equality, environmental and social impact assessments (ESIA), and technological innovation in the time of COVID-19.
Panelists reflected that mining communities have indeed suffered during the pandemic, due to job losses, economic and food insecurity, border closures and travel restrictions, and disruptions to supply chains. Several companies and NGOs highlighted their actions to assess the extent of difficulties in such communities, and provide practical support. They also stressed that efforts to boost economies in the wake of the crisis should protect human rights, protect the environment, and generate equal opportunities for both women and men. They noted that more resilient communities will benefit everyone.
Regarding relationships between companies and communities, Natascha Nunes da Cunha, Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), remarked, “It’s not that you ask, I give, and let’s move on—the challenge is to find more effective ways of collaboration between different stakeholders.”
Participants heard about experiences from Cambodia, Canada, and Colombia in conducting gender impact assessments and developing gender-inclusive policies. Speakers noted that gender is one of many interacting factors in structural inequalities. Other factors could include characteristics such as ethnicity and indigenous status. Speakers presented innovations in technology and practice, such as the use of mobile apps in collating gender-specific information among hill tribes in Cambodia, and rapidly reporting back to local communities. They stressed the value of gender impact assessments as a basis for determining how new mining projects might exacerbate, or alleviate, existing patterns of inequality.
The session on rethinking ESIA at the early phase of mine development addressed what role such assessments can play for responsible mining and the challenges faced. Participants heard how ESIAs are becoming increasingly complex, as the mining sector deals with increasingly complex situations. They were provided with an overview of IISD's IGF Guidance for Governments: Improving legal frameworks for environmental and social impact assessment and management, which summarizes international best practices in legal frameworks for ESIAs and includes tools to help evaluate and improve current legal frameworks. Participants then heard practical examples from the field on the strategic use of ESIAs.
The last dialogue of the day considered technological innovation in the post-COVID-19 era. Industry leaders considered that robotics and digitization are already influencing the way that mines work. They foreshadowed the need for workers to be skilled in new ways, in areas such as cybersecurity, data management, automation, and servicing of equipment. They underscored that, by reducing the need for heavy physical labor, technology will introduce more gender-neutral work roles—for example, in operating control rooms and managing automated processes.
In closing, Greg Radford, Director, IGF Secretariat, warmly thanked all who had participated, and noted that the online format of the meeting had enabled much larger numbers than usual to attend. The 2020 AGM had drew 1,800 people from 110 different countries, one-third of them from governments. Carolina Rojas Hayes, Deputy Minister of Mines, Colombia, emphasized the close collaboration among the mining sector, government authorities and local communities to help adapt to changes as a result of COVID-19. Mark Cutifani, CEO, Anglo American, anticipated a future post-COVID-19 in which people will work together to ensure that “mining works for everyone.”
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Highlights for Wednesday, 21 October 2020
Day 2 of the AGM delved into the impacts of COVID-19 on various aspects of the mining industry: artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), responsible sourcing and the mining sector’s action on climate. Two sessions addressed the future of resource taxation, and a Spanish-language session focused on experiences from Latin American and the Caribbean countries in developing a shared vision for mining and sustainable development.
Sessions continued in an entirely virtual format, and speakers’ presentations were interspersed with online polls. Some sessions developed a lively parallel dialogue via the meeting platform’s chat box, as participants posted questions and offered spontaneous responses.
Participants heard the experiences of Afghanistan, Chile, Senegal and Colombia in addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on ASM. Online polls conducted showed most participants felt that governments should focus on economic recovery of the sector, and expressed optimism for 2021. Panelists discussed the Delve Project, which provides a global platform for ASM data. It shows that female respondents are more food insecure, which has been exacerbated during the pandemic. They noted that, while governments recognize the need to build back better, further formalization of efforts in the sector are needed.
With regard to responsible sourcing, the AGM discussed the handling of conflict minerals. Panelists noted that the sector had been drastically affected by sharp drops in mineral prices. They discussed how the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM) can contribute by mobilizing resources, sharing knowledge, and experiences, and raising awareness.
Nigel Topping, High-Level Champion for Climate Action, UK, addressed the session on Mining, Climate Change, and COVID-19. He urged the mining sector to join the “Race to Zero”—a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions and investors to commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050—as they are a key part of the global energy transition. Participants noted that the COVID-19 crisis creates an opportunity to diversify and green the mineral supply chain.
IGF and the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) introduced a new initiative, “The Future of Resource Taxation,” which investigates how current systems for mining taxation can be improved. Participants heard experiences from the Philippines and Uganda, and discussed how fiscal policies can address base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), which reduces the amount of resource rent that can be collected by source countries. Discussions covered the changing role of the state as an enabler of dialogue between mining companies and stakeholders, alternative dispute resolution methods, and the need for transparency in assessing the value of mineral exports. In a related session on “Splitting the Proceeds,” presenters discussed the relative merits of production-based taxes vis-à-vis profit-based taxes. They cautioned that both approaches are vulnerable to BEPS, and that “the best-designed policies are only as good as the tax administration.” In the other related session regarding the "Role of the State", presenters discussed state participation and a model of competitive bidding for mining licences as a way to improve revenue collection from the mining sector.
In a session on developing a shared vision for mining and sustainable development in the Latin America and the Caribbean, moderated by the Inter-American Development Bank, participants heard experiences from mining policy makers from Argentina, Chile, and Peru. Speakers noted the need for transparency, dialogue and trust building.
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Highlights for Tuesday, 20 October 2020
The impacts of COVID-19 on the mining industry are a major focus of this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF). The 16th AGM opened today and is the first to take place in a virtual format, due to travel restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. In meeting polls, many welcomed the virtual format as enabling many more participants to engage in the deliberations.
Isabelle Ramdoo, Deputy Director, IGF, opened the meeting, saying this year’s theme aims to bring a diverse range of perspectives on how the mining sector is navigating the COVID-19 crisis, and how governments are responding to the challenge.
Aissatou Sophie Gladima, Minister of Mines and Geology, Senegal, outlined the difficulties COVID-19 has posed to the Senegalese mining sector, including the decreased mobility of workers, health and safety concerns, and potential large-scale downsizing.
Norbert Barthle, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), said that the pandemic presents an opportunity to transition to a more sustainable global economy, with sustainable supply chains being central to this.
Luis Miguel Incháustegui Zevallos, Minister of Energy and Mines, Peru, underscored that mining activities require the trust and buy-in of local communities, and that the sector also needs to improve its competitiveness.
Daniel Kaufmann, President Emeritus, Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), outlined global challenges including: the COVID-19 pandemic; a global economic downturn; climate change; and increasing natural resource demand. He cited integrated resource planning as a way to address these challenges.
Participants discussed the future of mining employment and skills, noting the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimate of the number of working hours lost to COVID-19 equates to 500 million full-time jobs. Other topics addressed were building resilient communities, current work on a global tailings management standard, and mine closure policy.
The Council on Ethics, Swedish National Pension Funds and the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) presented on work that was done to develop and consult widely on a new Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, following the tragic collapse of the Brumandinho tailings dam in Brazil in January 2019, killing 270 people. The global standard was published in August 2020.
Participants discussed mine closure policies, and the need for financial assurance to support closure. They considered the experiences of regulators in Papua New Guinea, Namibia and Argentina, highlighting the need to consider closure as an integral part of the mining life-cycle.
Participants will continue their discussions over the next two days, and the IGF Council will also meet in a closed session.
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