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ICMM calls for stronger legal protection of World Heritage sites

5 September 2016

Today, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) called on governments to increase the protection given to World Heritage sites.

Speaking at the Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), ICMM’s CEO, Tom Butler said: “The congress theme ‘Planet at the crossroads’ stresses that business as usual is not an option and ICMM agrees.

“Our members voluntarily decided in 2003, not to mine or explore in World Heritage sites. Yet 13 years later, other companies and industries are still operating in these precious sites. The conservation of World Heritage sites is a collective responsibility we all share and ICMM wants to see more movement from governments to protect them.”

Since the first World Heritage sites were listed in 1978, only two of the 192 countries that have ratified the World Heritage convention [1] have enshrined this protection in domestic legislation - South Africa and Australia. This is against a backdrop of a rapid decline in the world’s fauna. WWF’s Living Planet Report found that wildlife populations have halved since 1970 [2].

While 23 leading mining companies have voluntarily made a commitment not to mine or explore in World Heritage sites, their voluntary action alone is not enough to safeguard these sites. ICMM and IUCN commissioned an independent report by Dr Stephen Turner on world heritage. It recommended that countries incorporate their commitments under the World Heritage Convention in their national legislation. [3]


Notes for editors

  1. The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World's Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972. Since then, 192 states parties have ratified the convention.
  2. WWF Living Planet Report, 2014 http://www.wwf.org.uk/about_wwf/other_publications/living_planet_report_2014/#.V8aoVU36vIU
  3. Dr Stephen Turner’s report: World Heritage sites and the extractive industries is available at: http://www.icmm.com/publications/pdfs/3787.pdf

ICMM position on World Heritage sites

ICMM is fully supportive of the efforts of IUCN, WWF and others to ensure that World Heritage Sites, identified as areas of outstanding universal value, are no-go to industrial activity.

ICMM, along with JP Morgan and Shell, took a leadership position in 2002 not to mine, explore or fund activities in World Heritage Sites. Disappointingly, only a handful of other companies have since made similar no-go commitments. The effectiveness of no-go commitments is undermined without stronger regulatory support or sector-wide adoption.

Only two governments – South Africa and Australia – have enshrined the World Heritage Convention into domestic law. The conservation value of the no-go commitment is limited without broader industry and government uptake.

World Heritage sites

  1. Interactive map of World Heritage sites is available on the UNESCO website at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/. There are 1052 World Heritage sites: 814 are cultural; 203 natural; and 35 are mixed sites.
  2. According to the IUCN’s World Heritage Outlook, the biggest current threats to World Heritage are agriculture, tourism and forestry.

Further information

Mike Eames
Media Relations, ICMM
Email: mike.eames@icmm.com
Direct: +44 (0) 20 7467 5598
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7467 5071

Kathleen Kawecki
Manager, External Relations, ICMM
Email: kathleen.kawecki@icmm.com
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7467 5086
Mobile: +44 (0) 7881 316 724
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7467 5071