Minerals are essential for modern living, and mining is still the primary method of their extraction. To date, it appears that the main constraints to sustainability in the mining sector derive from the ever-increasing demand for mined resources, the consumption of resources (mostly energy and water) needed to extract and process metals, and the increasing pollution generated by the extraction process. This holds true for both large-scale, often multinational corporate, operations as well as for small-scale or artisanal ventures.
Growth of Construction Minerals Extraction
In the 20th century, the extraction of construction minerals grew by a factor of 34, while that of ores and industrial minerals by a factor of 27. This growth significantly outpaced a quadrupling of world population and a 24-fold increase in GDP.
Environmental, Social & Economic Impacts
While the sustainability of extractive industries varies, these operations generally remain associated with a range of environmental and social impacts negatively affecting local communities. Given the importance of mining to revenue and employment in some developing countries, as well as the non-renewable nature of many mined resources, the sustainability of this industry and the efficient use of its resources for development remain crucial.
Maximizing Benefits & Sustainability
How to maximize the development benefits of mining while improving the environmental and social sustainability of the mining sector was first addressed in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI), where the following three priority areas were identified:
- Address the environmental, economic, health and social impacts and benefits of mining throughout their life cycle, including workers' health and safety;
- Enhance the participation of stakeholders, including local and indigenous communities and women;
- Foster sustainable mining practices through the provision of financial, technical and capacity-building support to developing countries and countries with economies.
Mining was one of the five themes reviewed during CSD-18/19 biannual cycle.