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World Heritage Sites and legally designated protected areas

Across the world, certain areas of land or sea contain species or habitats which are valuable or at risk. World Heritage Sites are home to features that are so unique or valuable that no activity should be allowed to compromise them. Others are categorised as areas needing some level of protection through a range of legally binding designations.

Mining is an important driver of development in host countries and produces essential metals and minerals for the global economy. However, extracting metals and minerals, building infrastructure and attracting people to remote areas has an impact on the natural environment.

This is why ICMM believes that mining in World Heritage Sites is not compatible with biodiversity conservation: the costs outweigh the benefits. ICMM also believes that all protected areas need to be managed carefully to prevent the irreversible loss of those values.

ICMM members commit to no-go in World Heritage Sites

ICMM members recognise that they have an important role in protecting biodiversity values and have therefore made a public commitment not to explore or mine in World Heritage Sites and continue to encourage other industries to do the same. They also commit to respect all protected areas, and design and operate any overlapping or adjacent mines in a manner which does not compromise their biodiversity value.

ICMM members respect protected areas through assessing risks and impacts to biodiversity and ecosystem services and applying the mitigation hierarchy with the ambition of no net loss. In addition, they commit to design and operate any new operations or changes to existing operations to be compatible with the value for which such areas were designated.

Role of governments

Governments need to play a vital role in developing and enforcing consistent legislation around what activities are permitted or prohibited in protected areas and legally designated protected areas. If ‘no-go’ commitments are voluntary at the company level, these more responsible actors are prevented from operating in an area, but these areas remain open to mining by others who may have less well-developed biodiversity management approaches. This also means that biodiversity that has been safeguarded by one company is at risk if and when these areas fall under the management of a company without such a commitment.

ICMM is engaging actively with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to support its mainstreaming efforts: ensuring more widespread and consistent biodiversity planning, regulation and collaboration between governments and industry.