European Parliament

EU recognizes IRMA as best standard for responsible mining

On 24 November, the European Parliament passed a resolution related to critical raw materials that encourages the European Commission to take the standard for responsible mining developed by the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance as a starting point. IUCN NL is pleased to see this and hopes also the Netherlands will promote certification with this demanding standard for responsible mining.

Mining provides society with a range of essential materials, such as nickel, copper and cobalt. ‘These metals and minerals are used in countless machines and industrial processes, from batteries and cars to paint and microwave ovens,’ says Mark van der Wal, Senior Expert Ecosystems & Extractives at IUCN NL.

Fueled by the green energy transition, the demand for metals and minerals is growing explosively. The World Bank [1]© 2020 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, Minerals for Climate Action: The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition found that the production of minerals, such as graphite, lithium and cobalt, could increase by nearly 500% by 2050, to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies.

Responsible sourcing of raw materials

Unfortunately, the extraction of these minerals often goes hand in hand with human rights violations and major losses of biodiversity, especially through deforestation, pollution and forced displacement. To limit these negative side-effects and to responsibly source raw materials, IUCN NL believes three things are indispensable: a) transparency, b) strong local laws and regulations, and c) voluntary and mandatory sustainability standards for companies.

Our work

IUCN NL is committed to responsible raw materials management to minimise the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services and to achieve a sustainable energy transition.

Standards impose stricter requirements

‘Voluntary performance standards to which mining companies can commit are an important addition to existing laws and regulations,’ Van der Wal says, ‘because these sector-wide standards often impose stricter sustainability requirements.’  

IUCN NL therefore encourages companies to publicly commit to such standards, especially the progressive IRMA standard (Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance).

‘This standard was developed by a multi-sector coalition consisting of mining companies, purchasing companies (such as jewelers and electronics manufacturers), NGOs, labour unions and mining affected communities,’ Van der Wal explains. ‘Also IUCN NL and its partner organizations that are committed to the protection of vulnerable ecosystems have actively provided input during the consultation rounds.’

Good interpretation of responsible mining

‘The IRMA standard is a demanding standard. Even our highly critical CSO partners see this standard as a good interpretation of what responsible mining is, taking into account communities, employees and natural resources,’ Van der Wal says.

Important step towards wider uptake

Governments, policymakers and financial institutions can use their influence to promote certification. ‘The encouragement by the European Parliament is an important step towards a wider uptake of the IRMA standard,’ Van der Wal says.


1 © 2020 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, Minerals for Climate Action: The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition