Helena Ranängen, Åsa Lindman-LTU
Researchers Helena Ranängen and Åsa Lindman has developed criteria for the mining industry's sustainability. View original picture , opens in new tab/window

New criteria for sustainable mines

A framework with 36 sustainability criteria will help the Nordic mining industry to develop its sustainability efforts. Behind the framework are researchers Helena Ranängen and Åsa Lindman, Luleå University of Technology.

Demand for minerals and metals is increasing globally. At the same time, the mining industry has a major impact on the environment, society and economy. Developing mining companies' sustainability efforts and finding out which sustainability criteria should be prioritized, are therefore of great importance.

Luleå researchers Helena Ranängen and Åsa Lindman, on behalf of NordMin, have studied the sustainability work of the Nordic mining industry and how this can be developed. The mining industry's stakeholders, such as the County Administrative Board, the Sami society, politicians, the visiting industry and others responsible for the sustainability of large Nordic mining companies, have participated in the study.

In the study, the sustainability reports of mining companies have been analyzed. The analysis showed that of the 14 mining companies included, only seven are reporting how they work with sustainability.

- The study shows that Nordic mining companies have come a long way in their sustainability efforts. Some have codes of conduct and various policies developed, but may not have been anchored in the business to a great extent. Others already have integrated and implemented business management systems in place, including environment, energy, work environment, anti-corruption. Companies that have come a long way also see the one point with this framework because it provides a clear signal to what is expected of mining companies wanting to work in the Nordic region, researchers say.

The framework is divided into seven areas: Business governance, human rights, good practices, economic aspects, working conditions, the environment and social commitment and development. Within each of the areas, a number of criteria have been identified and also ranked according to the order in which they should be prioritized.

The environmental area proved to be an important area, highlighting many aspects such as sustainable resource consumption, emissions to air and water, as well as waste management and recycling of metals. Other important aspects are interest management, risk management, anti-corruption, non-discrimination, indigenous peoples rights, work environment and local community engagement.

 Achieving systematic sustainability work is important for mining companies and for society and can contribute to increased acceptance for investments in mining industry, for example, when starting new mines. The next step for the researchers is now to look at how companies can work practical with sustainability criteria. The above study is part of the project "Sustainability Criteria for the Nordic Extractive Industry" funded by NordMin.