Human rights in mining

Human Rights crosscut a wide range of issues, and mining activities by their nature can impinge on many of them. Ten years after the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), data from the RMI Report 2020 shows that the large mining companies assessed score on average a low 19 % on human rights-related issues. See full Research Insight here.

Despite a low average of 19 % scored by large mining companies on human rights-related issues based on RMI Report 2020 data, it is encouraging to see a few companies scoring 75 % or above on some of their management strategies and action plans. This relates to how those companies assess and address specific risks related to issues such as water rights, Indigenous Peoples’ rights, land rights, resettlement, workers’ rights, security forces, or child labour.

What is concerning though is the lack of consistency across all human rights issues demonstrated by these mining companies, when the 59 human rights-related metrics are averaged.

Access to remedy is one of the three pillars of the UNGPs, in recognition of “the need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached". Yet the results on grievance mechanisms in the RMI Report 2020 are not encouraging. At the mine-site level, where 180 mine sites across 49 producing countries were assessed against the most basic indicators, only about one-third of the mine sites disclose any information about operational-level grievance mechanisms for communities and for workers.

Leaders from the investment community realise that strong ESG performance and a robust record on human rights contribute to a stable business environment and lower levels of risk. Together with regulators, investors and banks are clearly in a strong position to accelerate the transition to a meaningful normalisation of human rights.

And with the growing interest for more responsible and ethical supply of raw materials also coming from downstream consumers, there is good momentum to realise respect for human rights along the entire value chain. It is more than time for mining companies to fully embrace both the precepts of ‘respect’ and ‘remedy’ on all aspects of Human Rights.

Download the full Research Insight here.

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