Materials must be safe to use: safe for the environment and safe for humans. Ensuring this happens is a field of activity known as chemicals management. So called because minerals and metals are actually classified and regulated as chemicals.
Chemicals management covers sourcing, transport, storage, use, production and management of occupational health and environmental risks throughout a material’s life cycle. ICMM is engaged in policy discussion on all of these aspects. Successful outcomes in chemicals management ultimately require industry and regulators to develop workable policies, robust assessment methods and sound risk management measures. And crucially for us, these must be sensitive to the specific qualities of minerals and metals. Failure to do so often results in the incorrect prediction of hazard or risk.
For over a decade, ICMM with our association members in particular have been advancing the science of hazard and risk assessment for metals and championing its acceptance in public policy. The ICMM-Eurometaux Metals Environmental Risk Assessment Guidance (MERAG) project has been of significant importance in this arena. MERAG has helped to consolidate advancements in the science of minerals and metals environmental risk assessment around the globe (most notably in the EU). A first publication was released in 2007 by ICMM, leading to greater recognition of the need for specific approaches.
In the years since our industry began this work, we have seen considerable progress in metals-specific science and the sophistication of its application. Among other positives, the UN’s Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) has been introduced by many countries around the world; the landmark Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation in the EU has been implemented, with many other countries following a similar path; and most global jurisdictions are now implementing more rigorous systems of hazard and risk assessment.
ICMM is currently working on promoting the uptake of metals specific hazard and risk assessment throughout the economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) – a region that represents over 75 per cent of metals production and use. We’re also working with specific stakeholders, such as the International Maritime Organization, to improve the characterisation of metals in its transport codes.