By the mid-to-late 1990s the mining and metals industry was in crisis. Commodity prices had plummeted and investors were reluctant to commit to supporting mining operations. To this: growing community unrest, criticism from civil society and broader public opposition threatened industry’s ‘social licence to operate’.
At this time of increased scrutiny a group of industry leaders acknowledged that the sector needed to change.
Social licence to operate: the ongoing approval or acceptance of a company’s activities by the local community and other stakeholders. This informal endorsement can be gained and renewed through meaningful dialogue and responsible behaviour.
Global Mining Initiative
A small group of mining and metals company CEOs came together and initiated the Global Mining Initiative (GMI). The initiative, led by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), sought internal reform, a review of the various associations they belonged to, and a rigorous study of the societal issues their industry had to face.
Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development
To advance progress in an independent manner, the WBCSD commissioned the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED) to undertake consultation and research. What became known as the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) initiative was an unprecedented multi-stakeholder consultation and research process that took place over two years. It involved 20 regional or national consultations listening to more than 5,000 individuals and organisations about the role that mining and metals could play in the transition to sustainable development. It also produced 175 research reports and papers from across the globe. The final MMSD report proposed an agenda for change that would revitalise the industry and bring greater alignment between actions of the industry and the values of contemporary society – precisely where a significant gap had opened up.
The GMI and MMSD gave rise to the creation of ICMM in 2001 – the organisation that would seek to catalyse change for the mining and metals industry. At the time, there was an existing international metals organisation called the International Council on Metals and the Environment (ICME). The board of ICME agreed to broaden its mandate and transform itself into ICMM with a secretariat based in London.
The results of the MMSD initiative were presented at a global conference in Toronto in 2002 that marked the end of the GMI. Titled ‘Resourcing the Future’, it was here that participating CEOs signed up to a list of commitments titled the Toronto Declaration. It was decided that ICMM would be the platform to take those commitments forward.
In the following year, ICMM developed 10 defining principles for guiding change in the industry. Over the years a series of position statements have been developed to accompany and strengthen the ICMM 10 Principles.
In February 2020, ICMM rolled out enhanced membership requirements: ICMM's Mining Principles that include site-level validation and transparent disclosure. ICMM’s Mining Principles define good practice environmental, social and governance requirements for the mining and metals industry through a comprehensive set of performance expectations.
ICMM’s Mining Principles are aligned with the objectives of other responsible sourcing initiatives. Establishing a high bar for sustainability practices that many of our member companies currently apply to manage a broad range of sustainability issues at the operational level.