Complaints and the IRMA System

This week IRMA posted the first complaints being processed through the IRMA Issues Resolution System. One (IRMA-2024-001) filed by the SIRGE Coalition (Securing Indigenous Peoples’ Rights In The Green Economy), and another (IRMA-2024-002) by the environmental advocacy NGO (and IRMA Board Member) Earthworks, both complaints question how the audit firm ERM CVS assessed the conformity of Albemarle’s Salar de Atacama lithium operation in northern Chile with IRMA’s Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) requirements, and how evidence was weighed and assessed in reaching audit findings.

Although the larger goal is to make mining more responsible – overall and particularly at IRMA audited mines – the means to do that is by providing unprecedented transparency to all stakeholders so that they can open dialogues that incentivize better operational practices. These complaints are exactly that: stakeholders using the information provided by IRMA audits to examine a mine’s practices and ask why they were measured as they were.

It’s important to note that all actors directly or indirectly associated with these complaints are learning how to do their work better. Although the IRMA Standard has been around since 2018, the Albemarle operation was the first lithium operation audited against the Standard, and just the third mine audited overall. The audit firm, the mining company, and IRMA itself are learning how to the IRMA system works in practice and how we can improve it.

In the near future, IRMA and the audit firm will meet, after which point we will get back to the complainants with next steps. As we process these complaints we will update their pages to keep stakeholders current about how the Issues Resolution System is working, and to allow the opportunity for all concerned to keep IRMA true to our core principles.

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Albemarle Atacama Audit release webinar

On 21 June, the day after the release the audit report of Albemarle’s Planta Salar de Atacama lithium operation, IRMA hosted a webinar to discuss the significance of the report, and the IRMA Standard and process through which the operation was independently assessed. In volunteering its operation for assessment and scoring IRMA 50, Albemarle submitted its practices to unprecedented public transparency, providing information that all stakeholders can use to decide what’s going well, and what may require more attention, at the mine.

The 1 hour webinar, which is about 1/2 presentation and 1/2 Q&A, is available below in English and Español.




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Albemarle Atacama Audit Report Released

Albemarle’s Salar de Atacama became the first lithium mine in the world to complete an independent audit of their performance against the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining. The audit can be found on the Salar Plant, Salar de Atacama (Albemarle) mine assessment page, the IRMA press release is in english and español, and you can download an audit packet including the audit itself and supporting materials (español).

IRMA’s Executive Director Aimee Boulanger and Assurance Director Michelle Smith will hold a webinar Q&A about IRMA audits on Wednesday 21 June at 11am Chile time (EDT). The webinar will be simultaneously interpreted in Spanish. Register here.

Albemarle’s Salar de Atacama operation scored at the IRMA 50 performance level (español), meaning the independent audit firm ERM-CVS verified that the mine met all critical requirements of the IRMA Standard, as well as at least 50% of the Standard’s criteria in four areas: social responsibility, environmental responsibility, business integrity and planning for positive legacies.

Salar de Atacama joins 12 other industrial-scale mines worldwide that are undergoing independent audits against the IRMA Standard in 2023. After an initial self-assessment, a participating mine engages a third-party audit firm — trained and approved by IRMA — to conduct a detailed independent evaluation, including on-site visits to the mine and nearby communities.

It’s important to note that IRMA audits do not yield “certification,” nor do they declare at what point a site becomes a “responsible mine.” The IRMA system is built to have more transparent conversation on the impacts, at a table where civil society and labor have voice equal to the private sector, and which seeks to create greater value to reduce harm.

In doing this audit, Albemarle has volunteered to be measured against a standard more rigorous, requiring more public engagement, and more transparent sharing of results than any other global mining standard. It is an act of leadership and commitment to increasing dialogue across diverse stakeholder sectors and with Indigenous rights holders to engage in this process.

It’s important to note that the audit report also provide an honest accounting for IRMA’s own progress as the Standard and its assessment process continue to mature. “If the results don’t fully reflect the experience of communities, Indigenous rights holders or other affected groups, we want to hear from them.” — Aimee Boulanger.


For More Information

Webinar Q&A

  • Wednesday, 21 Jun, 11am Chile time (EDT)
  • Speakers: IRMA Executive Director Aimee Boulanger, and Assurance Director Michelle Smith
  • Topics include: The IRMA process, how this independent audit occurred, how stakeholders can use this audit report
  • Register here