Can Sustainable Mining Be Less OF AN OXYMORON? The best modern mining practises represent a huge step forward in terms of maintaining a more sustainable environmental footprint. In order to progress in a responsible way, Serbia’s private and public sectors need to cooperate.
Following the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, nine of the world’s largest mining companies decided to initiate a project aimed at examining the role of the minerals sector in contributing to sustainable development, and how that contribution could be increased. Almost two decades on, this quest continues.
The best modern mining practises represent a huge step forward compared to previous practise. Most of the world’s leading mining companies are today committed to making continuous progress on environmental performance. However, the holy grail of sustainable mining remains hard to achieve. Even the best modern operations may have some undesirable environmental impacts, while good practises are slow to gain ground across the industry. The objective of improved performance is to ensure that critical natural resources are maintained and ecosystems are enhanced, if possible.
That is to say that mineral wealth should not only contribute to economic development, but also to net environmental continuity. The challenge is huge, both in the short and medium term.
Many underdeveloped and developing countries view mining as an opportunity for economic growth. However, the overall positive impact of the mining sector is much greater if there are strong linkages to other industries. Serbia hopes to rebuild some of those links.
It is often said that the private and public sectors need to cooperate in order for progress to be achieved in a responsible way. That is exactly what foreign investors, the Serbian government and academia are trying to achieve with amendments to the Law on and Geological Research, the adopting of a whole set of new by-laws and the introduction of e-mining. These steps must secure increased investments in the mining sector, solid planning and the preservation of Serbia’s mineral wealth.
Many underdeveloped and developing countries view mining as an opportunity for economic growth. However, by definition, the overall positive impact of the mining sector is much greater if there are infrastructure benefits and strong linkages to other industries, especially through domestic procurement. Most of those capacities in Serbia were devastated in the 1990s, during the civil war and economic crisis in Serbia, so there are today high hopes that foreign investments will also mean that Serbia will gain some processing facilities and that more value added products will be made within the country’s borders.
With the use of highly advanced technologies, mining today doesn’t offer many jobs. However, employment related to the mining sector was very high in countries where linkages were strong, even before taking into account the multiplier and fiscal expenditure impacts. Cooperation between the public and private sectors seems to have been essential to increasing such linkages. Moreover, mining firms have often made substantial contributions to local and regional development, at times due to legal requirements but often not. This now seems to be one of the most pressing issues in those parts of Serbia where mining sites are concentrated.