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Respect Indigenous Peoples

There are an estimated 370 million Indigenous People around the world, spread across more than 90 countries.

Indigenous Peoples – also known as First Peoples, Aboriginal Peoples or Native Peoples – belong to more than 5,000 different groups and speak more than 4,000 languages.

Indigenous Peoples are those who self-identify as Indigenous Peoples and often have a historical link with those who inhabited a country or region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. They have a strong link to the land and surrounding natural resources and are resolved to maintain and develop their ancestral environments and systems as distinct peoples.

Indigenous Peoples have distinct social, economic and political systems, language, culture and beliefs. They share a common experience of oppression and marginalisation by the state.

Indigenous Peoples and Mining

Mineral deposits are often situated under land closely associated with Indigenous Peoples – through claim, custom or ownership. This association creates specific obligations for companies, as well as unique challenges and opportunities that require great sensitivity to understand and address.

Indigenous Peoples have individual and collective rights and interests, and it is internationally recognised that their rights should be protected by governments and respected by companies.

Free, Prior and Informed Consent

One of these rights is that Indigenous Peoples be asked for their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) in decisions that may affect them. ICMM members commit to work to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples where significant adverse impacts are likely to occur, as a result of relocation, disturbance of lands and territories or of critical cultural heritage, and capture the outcomes of engagement and consent processes in agreements.

ICMM’s position in relation to FPIC seeks to respect the individual and collective rights and interests of Indigenous Peoples, as well as those of states, to make decisions on the development of resources (recognising that there may be limited recognition for indigenous rights in some countries).

FPIC comprises a process and an outcome. An effective process ensures that Indigenous Peoples are meaningfully engaged and have sufficient information about the project and sufficient time to be involved in decisions. They can freely make decisions without coercion, intimidation or manipulation. However, if consent is not forthcoming, despite the best efforts of all parties, in balancing the rights and interests of Indigenous Peoples with the wider population, a government might determine that a project should proceed and specify the conditions that should apply. In such circumstances, it is for ICMM members to determine individually whether they ought to remain involved with a project.

Why Can FPIC Be Difficult To Obtain?

It can be very challenging for companies to secure FPIC in practice for a variety of reasons. For example, Indigenous Peoples may have difficulty reconciling the potential changes associated with a project with their traditional way of life. FPIC is not a legal requirement in all countries and there may be pressure from the government to ignore or rush the process.

There may also be a mix of indigenous and non-indigenous people in the affected community with different rights associated, meaning that it may not always be clear who does and who does not have the right to be involved in a consent process. Even if this is clear, there may not be unanimous consent.

Strengthening Operational Capacity

Successful mining and metals projects require the support of a range of interested and affected parties. Indigenous Peoples often have cultural characteristics, governance structures, and ways of interacting and decision making that set them apart from the non-indigenous population.

ICMM company members commit to understand and respect the rights, interests and perspectives of Indigenous Peoples. Our vision is for constructive relationships between mining and metals companies and Indigenous Peoples that are based on mutual respect, meaningful engagement, trust and mutual benefit.

To this end, ICMM members commit to adopt and apply engagement and consultation processes that ensure the meaningful participation of indigenous communities in decision making, through a process that is consistent with their traditional decision-making processes and is based on good faith negotiation.

ICMM’s Mining Principles also require members to apply the mitigation hierarchy to address adverse impacts and deliver sustainable benefits for Indigenous Peoples. This means that companies should first seek to anticipate and avoid negative impacts, then minimise, and as a last resort compensate and offset.