You are on page 1of 2

The Emperor’s New Clothes – A Critical Review

Sustainable development was defined by the Brundtland Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (United Nations, 1987, p. 43) as “meet[ing] the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Like many other industries, the mining and minerals industry has come under tremendous pressure to improve its social, developmental, and environmental performance and operate more sustainably. Many mining companies have signed up to ‘corporate social responsibility’ initiatives in the last decade and now there is ‘a push in many countries to invite in multinational mining companies with the idea that there is a 'new, sustainable mining' that is different from the old, bad practices of the past. Yet what has actually changed in the industry to match this shift in rhetoric?’ (Whitmore 2005). In a parallel to the fable, Whitmore’s paper ‘The emperor’s new clothes: sustainable mining?’ (http://sp.lyellcollection.org/cgi/content/abstract/250/1/233) looks at how ‘sustainable mining' is perceived from the viewpoint of mines-affected communities and their supporters. Starting from one of the industries initial initiatives, the GMI (Global Mining Initiative), going on to the programme ‘Mines Minerals and Sustainable Development’ project and the subsequent formation of the International Council of Mining and Metals, Whitmore, with referenced arguments, states that whilst these initiatives project describe themselves as being consultative and inclusive, the framework, objectives and structure were all unilaterally predetermined by the corporate sector without the broad consultations associated with a more credible multistakeholder processes. Whitmore is a member of the editorial board of Mines and Communities (MAC) an organisation seeking to empower mining-affected communities. ‘Born’ from a meeting of community activists and supporters in London in May 2001, their key demands are encapsulated in 'London Declaration'. Amongst the demands relevant to his paper, is the section on how industry-sponsored initiatives promote at least four half-truths or myths; that is the supposed need for more and more minerals from ever more mines; the claim that mining catalyses development; the belief that technical fixes can solve almost all problems; and the inference that those opposed to mining mainly comprise ignorant and 'antidevelopment' communities and NGOs. Whilst Whitmore looks at each of these in turn and exposes the fallacy of sustainable mining, we take ‘quick’ a look at two of these so called ‘myths”. Whitmore questions ‘how can the naked laws of supply and demand, in a growing world of consumption, result in a sustainable extractive industry?’, and claims that part of the increase in production is not just global economic demand, but is a result of subsidies provided by government policies and the promotion of mining via International Finance Institutions. In contrast, the mining industry has argued that mining is a cyclical activity, involving exploration through mining to rehabilitation and back to exploration (eg. HoreLacy, 1986; Tilton, 2003). It is argued that this process is inextricably linked to economics and social issues (eg. land use), giving rise to more exploration as prices rise due to perceptions of potential supply shortages as demand grows. Commonly, the view that mineral resources are finite is rejected by the mining industry due to this continuing cycle of the discovery of new deposits, new technology and the like to continue to meet rising demand. Another myth, according to Whitmore, is the claim that mining projects are catalysis for development. He sees short-term mining projects creating no-more than a 'boomtown' effect and the areas are often plagued with the 'mining curse'. A term used to describe the negative social and economic effects where the revenues and opportunities from resource extraction have not effectively been invested back into the country (Sachs and Warner, 1995). Although it is fair to state that it is not always clear that mining brings economic and social benefits to the host countries, this tends to be where as the minerals sector has operated where there has been poor governance, including corruption (http://www.iied.org). At the level of an individual mine, it cannot hope to influence the politics or economics of a sovereign nation, nevertheless it does have responsibility for the way it interacts with local communities affected by the mine’s operations. (Richards 2008). There are clearly numerous aspects and issues involved in assessing the sustainability of mining, and the emphasis will largely vary according to whether one is adopting a mining industry, government or independent civic perspective. Whitmore concludes that ‘from the perspective of mine-affected communities, nothing seems to have changed. Their land is still being taken from them without giving their free, prior and informed consent, and they are suffering the same ill effects on their ways of life, health and environment’ and in essence the mining industry 'emperor' has the same old naked ambitions.

Richard. p. E. 70 p. & Warner.iied. A. I. Hore-Lacy. United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)United Nations. Murck. (http://www. University of Alberta (Last updated 28 November 2008). and non-renewable resources.Institute of Economic Research. 1987. On Borrowed Time ? Assessing the Threat of Mineral Depletion." Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1715. Mudd. J. USA. 1986. Sachs. Research Report No RR5. B. .Department of Civil Engineering.M. 2003. Monash University and Mineral Policy Institute. Sustainable development in the mining industry: clarifying the corporate perspective. Revised . Harvard . Tilton. Australian Mining Industry Council (AMIC). ACT. G. Economic Convergence and Economic Policies. J. Resources for the Future. 2008.References Hilson.April 2009. renewable. Sustainable development. 2009. Mining and the Environment. G M. J. A 2005. D. 43) Whitmore. The Sustainability of Mining in Australia : Key Production Trends and Their Environmental Implications for the Future.org). Dickson. 1995. Washington DC. 3rd Edition.