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IRMA’s Deep Sea Mining position

In April 2021, via our newsletter IRMA notified our followers of our position on deep sea mining. Because deep sea mining is increasingly a topic of conversation of late, we are republishing that statement here:

IRMA was not developed to assess the unique risks associated with deep-sea mining and cannot be used to describe best practice for this type of extraction. As such, and in light of the need for ongoing research, the current inability to audit impacts, and a risk that IRMA’s Standard could be inappropriately applied if used in the deep-sea context, IRMA does not allow its system (whether self-assessments or audits) to be used by companies involved in deep-sea mining exploration. We will continue to stay abreast of developments related to this topic, providing applicable expertise and our unique multi-stakeholder perspective, as appropriate.

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IRMA’s Response to Russia’s Attacks on Ukraine

IRMA is deeply concerned with the terrible conflict in Ukraine. As we have both private sector and civil society organizations working with IRMA in the region, we have spent the last week reaching out to our participants, other multi-stakeholder standards systems, and experts in auditing. We welcome feedback from any stakeholder on our course of action.

  • IRMA civil society organizations focused on Russia, working for greater environmental and social responsibility in mining, are encouraged to continue to engage in IRMA.
  • Private sector purchasers and investors with concern for more responsible practices may continue to ask mining companies in Russia to measure their performance against the IRMA Standard.
  • For mining companies based in Russia, all effort at this time must be with the IRMA Mine Measure self-assessment tool, which can guide them on areas that may need improvements to protect social and environmental values. No external claims of IRMA achievement by companies using the tool will be allowed in the market. No mining companies in Russia have yet been independently audited against the IRMA Standard. We will not commence auditing in the region until there is greater stability and confidence that diverse stakeholders may safely engage in a robust independent audit. Additionally, a decision has been made to pause membership activities for Russian-based mining companies at this time.

We join the global community in heartache for the suffering at this time of violent conflict there and in other places around the world. We affirm IRMA’s core vision regardless of the geography: a world where the mining industry respects the human rights and aspirations of affected communities, provides safe, healthy and supportive workplaces, minimizes harm to the environment, and leaves positive legacies.

Our position is an initial response and will evolve as appropriate with global circumstances and we welcome your feedback at info@responsiblemining.net.

UPDATE: 21 March 2022

Nornickel Statement

Nornickel is a Russia-based mining company that had pending membership status in IRMA and, as a result, was preparing for independent audit. IRMA has encouraged the company to continue to use the self-assessment tool to understand IRMA requirements and to seek opportunities for improved performance, and we hope to engage in an independent audit in the future. The company has shared with IRMA the following statement:

Nornickel has agreed to pause its pending membership status in IRMA, and will continue to work independently and will continue to use the IRMA Mine Measure self-assessment tool to prepare for independent audit to improve practices that reduce environmental and social impacts. We believe that the findings from this informal exercise will make a useful guide on how we can improve towards IRMA standards, while we are held on pause.

Batani Statement

Batani (International Indigenous Fund for development and solidarity) is a non-governmental organization and an IRMA Member. They have shared with IRMA the following statement:

Batani stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their struggle for freedom, and we are extremely concerned about ensuring the rights of Indigenous peoples during the war on Ukrainian territory. This war has also created security issues for indigenous peoples living in Russia. As a result, Batani appreciates the steps IRMA has taken to pause the Nornickel audit until it can be done in a manner that ensures the safe engagement of communities affected by the Nornickel operations.

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Member Spotlight: Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association

From time to time, our blog will feature IRMA Member organizations, allowing them to explain, in their own words, their interest in forwarding more responsible mining and why they are engaged with IRMA.

Below are responses from Fadzai Midzi, Programmes Assistant, ZELA

What is the mission and primary work of ZELA?

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) exists to promote equitable, just, and sustainable environmental and natural resources management and protection of marginalised communities and citizens in Southern Africa. ZELA is motivated by a strategic mandate to influence mineral resource governance to ensure that communities benefit from exploitation of natural resource. Our, our work is mainly based on legal, policy reforms, partnership building, implementation and participatory research, impact and strategic litigation and movements such as the Publish What You Pay Coalition, that ZELA coordinates.

How did you become engaged with IRMA?

ZELA believes in partnership building locally, regionally, and international. In driving the mission, ZELA has collaborated with likeminded organisations including chairing platforms such as the Alternative Mining Indaba and the Kimberly Process – Civil Society Coalition. Through such platforms, ZELA learnt the value of being affiliated to the IRMA, whose mission is linked with that of ZELA, that is to protect people and the environment directly affected by mining. Thus, ZELA decided to engage and learn from IRMA whose value cannot be overemphasized.

The engagement started in 2019, when UNKI Mine was undergoing its audit certification process. IRMA came into the country when the Zimbabwean government had expressed interest to adopt and implement the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), a globally recognised standard on promoting transparency and accountability in the extractives sector.

Through Unki Mine, IRMA proved that disclosure in mineral exploitation is possible. When the Unki Mine IRMA audit report came out, ZELA managed to raise community awareness on the report, as a way of encouraging grassroot level participation of marginalised communities in development of correctional action plans, in response to the audit. In 2021, ZELA joined IRMA and the organisation has been advocating for adoption of the IRMA audit tool, in Zimbabwe.

Are you finding value in having an IRMA audit report on the performance of a mine in your region?

  • IRMA has ignited our work which is mainly based on evidential rigor to influence better natural resource reforms.
  • We acknowledge the usefulness of the IRMA audit report information helping us to improve our engagements through evidence gathering and access to information provided by the audit reports on mining operations and their impact on communities’ wellbeing, rights, and the environment.
  • The IRMA audit report also informs in carrying out advocacy work during national, regional, and international dialogue processes such as the Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba (ZAMI), the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) and the Kimberly Process-Certification Civil Society Coalition
  • The IRMA audit tools help to bring out and plug some of the governance gaps for mining companies, for instance that was noted through the UNKI Mine audit.

What more or different would be helpful to you in your work to drive more responsible practices where mining is happening?

What would be helpful to our work is to have more companies adopt IRMA in Zimbabwe, to prove that the private sector has the capacity to be transparent and promote good governance in natural resource governance. Hopefully, that should encourage government to also take interest in utilising the audit tool for state owned enterprises. Partnerships with other IRMA members, and cross pollination of ideas with other IRMA members, contributes to advocacy for responsible mining.

For more information:
Visit the ZELA website

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IRMA Announcement: Fenix Assessment (Livent) Stage 1

The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) announces the commencement of a third-party independent assessment of Livent’s Fenix lithium brine extraction site against the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining. The site produces a lithium-rich brine, which it purifies and concentrates into lithium carbonate and lithium chloride. The site is located in the Salar del Hombre Muerto, in Catamarca province, Argentina.

SCS Global Services (SCS), an IRMA-approved certification body, will be carrying out the assessment, which begins with a desk review (stage 1), followed at a later date with an on-site audit (stage 2). IRMA will announce the dates of the on-site portion of the audit when those dates are known. For more on assessment scope, see the Fenix Assessment page on the IRMA website.

Scope of the Assessment

During the assessment the impacts and issues associated with the site will be reviewed, and each operation and facility will be visited. The assessment will include brine extraction, purification, evaporation/concentration, and waste disposal areas at the Fenix site.

Stakeholder Engagement in the Assessment

Stakeholders are invited to submit written comments to SCS on the social and environmental performance of Livent’s Fenix operations (in particular, how the site measures against the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining). Stakeholders may also contact SCS if they are interested in being interviewed as part of the assessment process. Stakeholder comments and expressions of interest in being interviewed as part of the audit process should be submitted by email or mail to:

SCS Global Services
2000 Powell St. #600
Emeryville, California, USA 94608

Email: scourter@scsglobalservices.com

Interested stakeholders and members of the public can visit the Mines Under Assessment page of IRMA’s website to view up-to-date information on all mine site assessments, including the Fenix site (e.g., find out the timing of the stage 2 on-site visit, access the audit results, etc.).

Please forward this announcement, and feel free to contact SCS directly to provide names and contact information for other stakeholders who may be interested in knowing about and participating in the Fenix assessment process.

For More Information

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Salar de Atacama (SQM) Commences Assessment

The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) announces the commencement of a third-party independent assessment of SQM’s Salar de Atacama site against the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining. The site produces a lithium-rich brine and potash. The site is located inside SQM’s mining concession area in the Salar de Atacama sector, in the commune of San Pedro de Atacama, El Loa Province, Antofagasta Region, Chile.

ERM Certification and Verification Services (ERM-CVS), an IRMA-approved certification body, will be carrying out the assessment, which includes a desk review (stage 1) followed by an on-site audit (stage 2).

Scope of the Assessment

During the assessment the impacts and issues associated with the site will be reviewed, and each operation and facility will be visited. The assessment will include brine extraction, concentration, and waste disposal areas at the Salar de Atacama site. For more on assessment scope, see the Salar de Atacama (SQM) assessment page on the IRMA website.

Stakeholder Engagement in the Assessment

Stakeholders are invited to submit comments to ERM-CVS on the social and environmental performance of the SQM’s Salar de Atacama operations (in particular, how the site measures against the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining).

Stakeholders may also contact ERM-CVS if they are interested in being interviewed as part of the assessment process. Stakeholder comments and expressions of interest in being interviewed as part of the audit process should be submitted by email or mail to:

ERM Certification and Verification Services

Email: post@ermcvs.com

Mail: Exchequer Court, 33 St Mary Axe, London, EC3A 8A

Interested stakeholders and members of the public can visit the Mines Under Assessment page of IRMA’s website to view up-to-date information on all mine site assessments, including the SQM Salar de Atacama site (e.g., find out the timing of the stage 2 on-site visit, access the audit results, etc.).

Please forward this announcement, and feel free to contact ERM-CVS directly to provide names and contact information for other stakeholders who may be interested in knowing about and participating in the Salar de Atacama (SQM) assessment process.

For More Information

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In Memoriam: IRMA Board Member Dewa Mavhinga

We honor our friend and colleague.

The staff and Board of Directors of IRMA join with the world in mourning the passing of IRMA Board leader Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa Director of Human Rights Watch, who passed away suddenly on 4 December while working in southern Africa. He was 41 years old, and leaves behind his wife Fiona, four young children, and mother. We grieve with the world, send blessings to his family, and honor Dewa’s lifetime of dedicated work in support of the dignity of all people.

Human Rights Watch honors Dewa’s life here.

In a memorial event organized by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, testimonies on the impact of Dewa’s life included:

“In the way of Desmond Tutu and Martin Luther King. He was a defender for the rights of all, despite race, class, gender or creed — he believed in power of ideas.”

“He was committed to arguing things out, but did so by uplifting other people. It wasn’t the activity of struggle, he humanized the struggle…He saw the humanity of every person he was struggling with. He humanized everyone in society, the victims and the oppressors.”

“He brought faith, community, solidarity, logical disputations as not only values but also as practices…He was a man of faith, not only religious, but faith that the people of Africa would live on the continent free of human rights abuses.”

“From the logic of force, to the force of logic….He was a brilliant man.”

“He was a humble great mind and a unifier…To me his death is like the burning of a library.”

“Dewa became a global go-to person for human rights across southern Africa. We have lost not only a colleague but the world has lost an indefatigable champion. Our hearts are with you all, his family, and everyone who knew him.”

“Dewa would say, ‘if you must choose to be right or to be kind, always choose to be kind.’ Especially coming from a lawyer this is remarkable. He was kind, gentle and yet also fearless.”

Dewa Mavhinga alongside fellow leaders from IRMA’s NGO, labor and community sectors.

With deep appreciation for Dewa, we will continue our work for greater environmental and social responsibility, and fundamental commitment to human rights, where industrial scale mining happens. We are deeply grateful for Dewa‘s years of work on behalf of Human Rights Watch and in service to IRMA’s multistakeholder Board of Directors.

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IRMA-Ready Standard Released for Public Comment

Comment period open through 15 April 2022

Today IRMA released the draft IRMA Standard for Responsible Mineral Exploration and Development (IRMA-Ready Standard) for public comment. The IRMA-Ready Standard is a response to requests from exploration and mining companies, directly affected communities, purchasers, and others for a comprehensive standard that defines best practices during mineral exploration and development, prior to the operational phase of a mine. Visit our IRMA-Ready web page to download the draft Standard.

The IRMA-Ready Standard is particularly important now because the green economy transition is increasing materials demand. Even as companies, investors, governments, and NGOs work to create more circular supply chains, gaps between supply and increasing demands are driving proposals for new mineral exploration and pre-extraction development. Standards for these early phases are often overlooked, yet activities and decisions made during exploration and project development have significant positive and negative environmental, social, and economic impacts with long-term implications on operations, closure, and post-closure phases of a mine. Accordingly, it is important that a definition of responsible practices for the earliest stages of the mine life cycle be developed that meets the needs of diverse stakeholders.

We call this Standard “IRMA-Ready” because an exploration or proposed mining project that meets the requirements in this Standard is well prepared to meet requirements in the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining if the project is developed and a mine becomes operational. 

IRMA-Ready uses as its foundation the comprehensive IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining, which was developed and is governed through a robust multi-stakeholder process where all sectors — including mining companies and affected communities — have an equal voice. IRMA-Ready recognizes that requirements at six different Stages of mineral exploration and development must be appropriate to the types of activities undertaken at that Stage: three Stages of exploration (Stages 1, 2, and 3) and three Stages of development (“Pre-permitting,” “Mine Permitting,” and “Construction”). Office work and desk-based reviews would be part of Exploration Stage 1, for example, while geological examinations would be part of Exploration Stage 2, and drilling and underground work would be part of Exploration Stage 3. Requirements differ for each Stage commensurate with its level of impacts and risks. 

The IRMA-Ready Standard will serve as the basis of a global, voluntary system offering independent third-party audits, public audit reports, and certification of environmental and social performance of an exploration and development project.

We value your feedback on any aspect of the draft IRMA-Ready Standard. The public comment period begins today and is open through 15 April 2022. 

Register for an upcoming webinar: 15th and 16th December 2021

IRMA is hosting two webinars to provide a general overview of the draft IRMA-Ready Standard and discuss the draft with anyone who is interested. Please register and join us for one of the following sessions:

IRMA is also hosting two webinars for mines and others interested in piloting the draft IRMA-Ready Standard in real-world settings. Interested participants are encouraged to also attend a General webinar, above, which will immediately precede the webinars on the Pilot Program.

Additional topic-specific IRMA-Ready webinars will be offered in 2022. Suggest a topic that interests you by writing to: comments@responsiblemining.net.

How to comment

Please send comments or questions on the draft IRMA-Ready Standard to: comments@responsiblemining.net

Next steps

The public comment period ends on 15 April 2022. The IRMA-Ready Standard will be revised based on comments and feedback from one or more pilot projects. We will make the final IRMA-Ready Standard available on the IRMA website as well as through the IRMA e-newsletter (sign up here).

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IRMA Announcement: On-site audit of Minas Rio, in December

The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) announces that, in addition to the five audits recently announced, another on-site audit has been scheduled. Auditors will be carrying out on-site audit activities at the Minas Rio iron ore mine in December 2021.

  • Minas Rio, Zona Rural, Conceição do Mato Dentro, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
    On-site audit dates: 9 – 12 December.

SCS Global Services , an IRMA-approved certification body, will be carrying out the on-site assessment at the Minas Rio site.

Stakeholder engagement in the assessment

Stakeholders should contact SCS Global Services if they are interested in being interviewed as part of the assessment process. Interviews with local stakeholders will be scheduled to take place during the on-site audit and may be virtual or in-person, taking into consideration COVID-19 precautions.

Stakeholders are also invited to submit comments to SCS Global Services on the social and environmental performance of the mine (in particular, how the site measures against the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining).

SCS Global Services

Email: scourter@scsglobalservices.com

Mail: 2000 Powell Street, Ste. 600 Emeryville, CA 94608 USA

Phone: +1 (510) 993-0127

Please forward this announcement, and feel free to contact SCS Global Services directly to provide names and contact information for other mine site stakeholders who may be interested in knowing about and participating in the mine site assessment process.

For More Information

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IRMA Announcement: On-site audits scheduled at five mines

The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) annouces that auditors will be carrying out on-site audits at five mines, starting in late November.  The mine sites, and on-site audit dates, are as follows:

  • Amandelbult, near Chromite, in Limpopo province, South Africa.
    On-site audit dates: 29 November – December 4.
  • Barro Alto, near Barro Alto, in the State of Goiás, Brazil.
    On-site audit dates: 29 November – December 3. (View the audit announcement in Portuguese)
  • Kolomela, near Postmasburg, in Northern Cape province, South Africa.
    On-site audit dates:  6 December – December 11.
  • Mototolo-Der Brochen, near Steelpoort, in Limpopo province, South Africa.
    On-site audit dates:  6 December – December 11.
  • Sishen, near Kathu, in Northern Cape province, South Africa.
    On-site audit dates: 29 November – December 4.

ERM Certification and Verification Services (ERM-CVS), an IRMA-approved certification body, will be carrying out the on-site assessments at these sites.

Stakeholder Engagement in these Assessments

Stakeholders should contact ERM-CVS if they are interested in being interviewed as part of the assessment process. According to ERM-CVS, “When possible, interviews with local stakeholders will be scheduled to take place during the on-site audit and may be virtual or in-person, taking into consideration COVID-19 precautions.” (See audit announcements on ERM-CVS website)

Stakeholders for any of the listed sites are also invited to submit comments to ERM-CVS on the social and environmental performance of any of the mines (in particular, how the site measures against the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining).

ERM Certification and Verification Services

Email: post@ermcvs.com

Mail: Exchequer Court, 33 St Mary Axe, London, EC3A 8A

Please forward this announcement, and feel free to contact ERM-CVS directly to provide names and contact information for other mine site stakeholders who may be interested in knowing about and participating in the mine site assessment process.

For More Information

  • Direct specific inquiries about the mine site assessment process to IRMA’s Director of Standards and Assurance: lsumi@responsiblemining.net
  • Visit the IRMA website for information on the IRMA mine site assessment and certification process, including the determination of audit scope.

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IRMA Announcement: Kolomela Mine Site Assessment Stage 1

The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) announces the commencement of a third-party independent assessment of the Kolomela iron ore mine against the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining. The mining complex, operated by Sishen Iron Ore Company (parent company Anglo American) is located near Postmasburg, in Northern Cape province, South Africa.

ERM Certification and Verification Services (ERM-CVS), an IRMA-approved certification body, will be carrying out the assessment, which includes a desk review (stage 1) followed by an on-site audit (stage 2).

Scope of the Assessment

During the assessment the impacts and issues associated with all mining operations and the associated facilities will be reviewed, and each site will be visited. For more on assessment scope, see the Kolomela assessment page on the IRMA website. The assessment will include Kolomela operations and facilities, including an open pit mine, crusher, beneficiation (gravity separation, cyclone and drum), tailings  storage facilities, and waste rock disposal areas.

Stakeholder Engagement in the Assessment

Stakeholders affected by or interested in the Kolomela mine are invited to submit comments to ERM-CVS on the social and environmental performance of the mine’s operations (in particular, how the site measures against the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining).

Kolomela stakeholders may also contact ERM-CVS if they are interested in being interviewed as part of the assessment process. Stakeholder comments and expressions of interest in being interviewed as part of the audit process should be submitted by email or mail to:

ERM Certification and Verification Services

Email: post@ermcvs.com

Mail: Exchequer Court, 33 St Mary Axe, London, EC3A 8A

Kolomela stakeholders and interested members of the public can visit the Kolomela page on the IRMA website for up-to-date information on the assessment (e.g., the timing of the stage 2 on-site visit, link to pubic summary of audit results).

Please forward this announcement, and feel free to contact ERM-CVS directly to provide names and contact information for other mine site stakeholders who may be interested in knowing about and participating in the mine site assessment process.

For More Information

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