Task 2 of MMSD North America set out to develop an approach to assessing how a mining/mineral project or operation contributes to sustainability. Specifically, the following objectives were established:
1. To develop a set of practical principles, criteria and/or indicators that could be used to guide or test the exploration for, design, operation, closure, post-closure and performance monitoring of individual operations, existing or proposed, in terms of their compatibility with concepts of sustainability; and
2. To suggest approaches or strategies for effectively implementing such a test/guideline.
Pursuing these objectives is important because meeting them:
1. Leads to a clarification of what the much-debated concepts of sustainable development and sustainability mean in practice for the mining/minerals industry;
2. Helps to achieve a consistency across applications and phases of a project/operation life-cycle that in turn will lead to a reduction of confusion and the realization of efficiencies; and
3. Contributes to clarifying the economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits, costs and risks of bringing the idea of sustainability from theory to practice and in so doing, brings clarification to the overall case for sustainability in general and the business case in particular.
The initiative led to the design of a framework to guide the assessment of whether or not a project or operation’s net contribution to sustainability is positive over the long term.
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). (2002). Seven questions to sustainability: How to assess the contribution of mining and minerals activities (Task 2 Work Group, MMSD North America). Earthscan for the International Institute for Environment and Development, London, UK.