Indigenous Peoples and Mining – New Principles Established

International mining companies commit to uphold fundamental human rights and respect cultures, customs and values.

GLOBE-Net, May 27, 2013 – Earlier this month, the International Council on Mining and Minerals (ICMM) Council of CEOs approved an Indigenous Peoples and Mining Position Statement that strengthens member companies’ commitment to uphold fundamental human rights and respect cultures, customs and values in dealings with employees and others.

The 2013 position statement replaces an earlier position statement from 2008. It articulates a progressive set of commitments that applies to all ICMM member companies.

The most significant change is the adoption of a commitment to obtain the consent of Indigenous Peoples for new projects (and changes to existing projects) that are located on lands traditionally owned by or under customary use of Indigenous Peoples and are likely to have significant adverse impacts on Indigenous Peoples.

As Mark Cutifani, CEO of Anglo American and chair of the ICMM Council of CEOs, notes, “ICMM members are taking a collective leadership stance to ensure that we build constructive and mutually-beneficial relationships between mining companies and Indigenous Peoples”.

The position statement outlines ICMM’s view of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as a process based on good faith negotiation through which Indigenous Peoples can give or withhold their consent to a project.

Such processes should strive to be consistent with Indigenous Peoples’ traditional decision-making processes while respecting internationally recognized human rights.

Recognizing the potential vulnerability of Indigenous Peoples, the commitments require members to:

  • Respect the rights, interests, special connections to lands and waters, and perspectives of Indigenous Peoples, where mining projects are to be located on lands traditionally owned by or under customary use of Indigenous Peoples
  • Adopt and apply engagement and consultation processes that ensure the meaningful participation of indigenous communities in decision making, through a process that is consistent with their traditional decision-making processes and is based on good faith negotiation. and to
  • Work to obtain the consent of Indigenous Peoples where required by this position statement.

The consent provision builds upon a number of supporting commitments that apply to most interactions between ICMM members and local indigenous communities.

These supporting commitments address engagement with Indigenous Peoples, understanding their rights and interests, building cross-cultural understanding, agreeing appropriate processes for consultation and engagement, and participation in decision making.

A number of related commitments address how ICMM members should engage where government is responsible for managing Indigenous Peoples’ interests in a way that limits companies’ involvement, and how to move forward where differences of opinion arise between Indigenous communities and companies.

The statement also recognizes the rights of states to make decisions on development of resources and that in most countries, neither Indigenous Peoples nor other groups have a right to veto projects.

The position statement acknowledges the reality that where consent cannot be reached, a host government may decide to proceed with a project in balancing the rights and interests of Indigenous Peoples with the wider population. In these circumstances it will be up to ICMM member companies to determine whether they remain involved with the project.  

The commitments in the position statement come into effect from May 2015.  By that time, members should ensure that their policy frameworks relating to Indigenous Peoples are aligned with the position statement. The commitments will not apply to projects that have started the approvals and permitting processes at the time of the adoption of the position statement.

ICMM Principles

  • Principle 3  Uphold fundamental human rights and respect cultures, customs and values in dealings with employees and others who are affected by our activities.
  • Principle 6   Seek continual improvement of our environmental performance.
  • Principle 9   Contribute to the social, economic and institutional development of the communities in which we operate.

Extractive Industries

The ICMM position statement is in keeping with the principles underlying the November 2012 announcement by Canada’s International Cooperation Minister Julian Fantino on the creation of a Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development as part of a new focus in Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy.

The University of British Columbia, working in a coalition with Simon Fraser University was selected to establish a world-class institute to deliver knowledge and technical assistance aimed at helping resource-rich developing countries manage their natural resources responsibly and transparently. (See GLOBE-Net article ‘ UBC-SFU to partner on new Extractive Industries Institute).

Duty to Consult in Canada

In Canada the duty to consult with Aboriginal peoples has been the subject of a series of Supreme Court decisions which confirm that both the Federal and the Provincial Crowns have a duty to consult Aboriginal people where a Crown decision or action may adversely affect Aboriginal rights and title. 

The Crown is able to delegate aspects of the consultation process to mining companies, such as information gathering on the potential impacts of a mining project on aboriginal or treaty rights as part of a provincial or a federal environmental assessment process, but the ultimate responsibility for consultation and accommodation rests with the Crown. 

While third parties such as mining companies do not have a legal obligation to consult with Aboriginal groups, they have a vested interest in the consultation process since their projects may be at risk if consultation is inadequate.

By consulting with Aboriginal groups early on, mining companies can also help build good relationships, share necessary information, and reduce the risk of future challenges to government decisions. 

The Mining Association of Canada recognizes and respects the unique role, contributions and concerns of Aboriginal Peoples (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) and indigenous peoples worldwide in all business operations. 

Its members have agreed to various commitments in their relationship with Aboriginal Peoples including developing open relationships, building cross-cultural understanding, undertaking early and culturally appropriate engagement, supporting and encouraging Aboriginal involvement in environmental monitoring. (Check here for more information on the role of mining companies in Aboriginal consultations in Canada.) 

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) was established in 2001 to improve sustainable development performance in the mining and metals industry. Today, it brings together many of the world’s largest mining and metals companies as well as national and regional mining associations and global commodity associations.


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