Why mine?

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Nearly every mineral and metal in use today is the product of some form of mining. And demand is increasing. 

Even if we were to recycle all the freely available metals in the world today, we would only meet a small percentage of the total mineral and metal requirements of society; in part due to the demands of a growing global population but also the reality that metals can remain in use for many years and are therefore simply unavailable for recyclying. Metals form the framework of buildings for example, which means they can't be accessed until after the structure is demolished.

Mining is therefore, key to almost every facet of our lives, from construction to technological innovations that improve our lives. But we need to be mindful of the broader balance of benefits and impacts and how mining operations should be managed.

The answer to achieving that balance lies in the concept of sustainable development. Its central idea is that any human activity, including mining, should be undertaken in such a way that provides a net positive contribution to people and the environment. This means that the benefits (which cannot be measured in purely economic terms) outweigh the costs. The critical focus therefore, is not how mining can be sustainable but on how mining, minerals and metals can contribute to sustainable development. ICMM was created with this in mind.

Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report: ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. It integrates economic activity with environmental integrity, social concerns, and effective governance systems. 

The society-wide need for minerals and metals seems certain to keep mining and the management of its impact and benefits as important to our future as it was to our past. And across this site, you’ll find information on some of the key sustainable development challenges facing the mining and metals industry. You will also find out what is being done to address these challenges including how our industry is contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ICMM has developed a range of good practice guides to support the sustainable development contribution of the industry and these can be accessed in the Library.