Published: Jan 2004
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A major independent multi-stakeholder analysis of how the mining industry can maximize its role in the transition to sustainable patterns of development — the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) project — concluded in 2001. Prominent among the recommendations in the MMSD report were the need for the mining industry to improve its performance in biodiversity assessment and management, and the need for all parties to commit to better models for decision-making processes in land use and access.
Mining is a temporary use of land, but history teaches us that the net effect of mining in a landscape is usually negative for biodiversity. There are benefits to human society in health, wealth and education, but society increasingly demands that environmental values be protected without compromising economic and social foundations. These expectations are captured in the concept of sustainable development.
Often, the most prospective areas for future mines will also be those with the greatest biodiversity value and with the greatest need for poverty alleviation. Many governments lack the capacity, will or resources to reconcile these conflicting needs equitably. Corruption in government and oppression of local populations have accompanied some mine developments.
Leading companies in the mining industry believe that these negative experiences are not inevitable, that better decisions on land use and access can be achieved and that sustainable benefits can be delivered through mineral development. One key to achieving these outcomes is the regional landscape-scale analysis of projects and conservation priorities, supported by fair, transparent and consistent decisionmaking processes.
Rio Tinto is a large diversified mining company which played a leading role in the actions leading to the commissioning of the MMSD project and participated fully in it. Examples from recent projects in Rio Tinto, illustrating aspects of regional planning and conservation actions, are presented in support of the case outlined above.
mineral development, biodiversity conservation, regional land-use planning
Principal Advisor Environment, Rio Tinto plc, London,