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Responsible mining protects workers’ and communities’ rights

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6 February, 2020With sustainability and responsible mining gaining momentum, the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) standards for responsible mining is emerging as a credible tool for quality assurance. More than 30 representatives from unions, non-governmental organizations and community groups in 12 countries, met in Cape Town on 2 February to discuss how the tool can protect workers and community rights.

The standard for responsible mining is a tool that unions and communities can use to protect workers and human rights, environmental sustainability and the social performance of mining companies at mines and along the supply chain.

The IRMA tool consists of a set of metrics for environmental and social responsibility that can be used at industrial scale mines to increase transparency and provide a credible way to measure a mine’s performance.

On workers’ rights, the standard supports rights to collective bargaining and freedom of association, living wages, maternity leave, health and safety, consultation before retrenchments, grievance handling mechanisms and is against harassment, intimidation and child labour.

Kemal Ozkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, says:

"Trade unions should use the standard for responsible mining to address mine level issues. It’s important for unions to participate in the audit processes and to use the complaint mechanisms provided. This is an important leverage for our mining affiliates in protecting and advancing rights of their members."

Speaking at the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI), Mark Curtifani, the chief executive officer of Anglo American said the mining company is using the standard for responsible mining as one of their strategies to engage and respect the human rights of communities as well as to “understand people better.” For example, Anglo American’s Unki Mine in Zimbabwe has been audited using the standard.
 
The AMI also acknowledged the IRMA standard as an objective tool for promoting responsible mining and unions hope the standard recommendations on artisanal and small-scale mining can be used to formalize the miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and other countries.
 
Aimee Boulanger, IRMA executive director says:

The standard for responsible mining has been developed over time, making it a robust tool that provides a resource for unions and communities to engage with mining companies.

The standard has 26 chapters on social issues like community health and safety, human rights, anti-corruption, and free prior and informed consent. On environmental issues, it protects water sources, aims to reduce air pollution, protects biodiversity and promote safe waste management.

IRMA is a multi-stakeholder initiative,

offering independent third-party verification and certification against a comprehensive standard for all mined materials. The governance of IRMA is shared by civil society, communities, unions and the private sector. IndustriALL and its North American affiliate United Steelworkers (USW) became involved at an early stage with demands for more socially and environmentally responsible mining. IndustriALL’s mining director Glen Mpufane is a board-member.