GRI recently released the Exposure Draft for the Mining Sector Standard at two online public forums, highlighting the 25 likely material topics and disclosures for the mining sector. 

>> Quick context: Today about 80% of major mining companies publish information on their sustainability performance, however stakeholders often consider current reporting standards to be insufficient. The new GRI Mining Sector Standards seeks to change this by providing a comprehensive view on the most significant impacts from mining activity, so that stakeholders can make informed decisions to guide strategy and investment. 

>> Likely material topics and disclosures announced  
The draft outlined 25 topics that are most likely to be material for reporting and lists the relevant disclosures for each impact. There are three new topics. The Standards must be used by reporting organisations when first determining their material topics and later, when deciding what to report on those topics. You can view the draft list of material topics here.  
>> Material topics – what’s new? 

  • Artisanal and small-scale mining: ASM are key mining stakeholders, especially in the developing world. Mining companies should engage with ASM operators early in the exploration phase to identify their legitimacy. They should describe programs in place to enhance positive impacts and mitigate any negative potential impacts, including pollution and child labour, especially if they purchase minerals extracted through ASMs. 
  • Tailings: Focus on the prevention of catastrophic failures of tailing facilities and draws from best-practice industry standards on tailings management. 
  • Conflict-affected and high-risk areas: Mining activities sometimes occur in regions affected by conflict, where there may be higher risks of illicit financial dealings and human rights abuses, such as forced labour and sexual violence. Reporting these situations is important as it shows whether the company has identified red flags and taken appropriate measures to prevent risks. 

>> Material topics – increased reporting expectations 

  • Climate adaptation and resilience: There is an increased focus on emissions and mitigation across the value chain. Mining companies must describe how they are anticipating and adapting to impacts in their own operations, and how they are supporting communities adapt to the physical impacts of climate change. 
  • Community engagement: An emphasis on companies to support and engage with local communities to establish a social licence to operate. Companies must describe how they are avoiding and mitigating impacts, while generating long-term development and benefits based on community needs. Local community engagement is a standalone topic, but it is important to note that reporting intersects with other topics, such as mine closure and rehabilitation, critical incident management, climate adaptation and resilience. 
  • Gender: Not a standalone topic, however companies must now apply a ‘gender lens’ when addressing their material topics. 

>> Reporting mine site impacts

There are also expectations for companies to report how their activities have an impact at the local mine-site level, considering the economy, environment and people. A greater level of detail will be required for reporting across topics such as GHG emissions, tailings and community impact.  

Newsletter image credit: Thanks to Mincor for supplying an image of their new solar-powered accommodation village at their Cassini operation