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US miner Albermarle has become the first lithium producer in the world to complete the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) report on its mine management.

The voluntary third-party report was carried out at Albermarle’s Salar de Atacama lithium brine project in Chile between September 2021 and April 2022, with the audit published this week.

The company received an IRMA 50 level of performance, meaning it met 50% or more of its more than 400 requirements of a responsible mine.

IRMA issues three awards: IRMA 50, IRMA 75 and IRMA 100. These correspond to the lowest percentage of the requirements the inspected site meets. Although it achieved the IRMA 50 rating, Albermarle revealed it met 70% of the requirements. The company said it achieved over either 50% or 75% for each of the four main areas.

These requirements are comprised of business integrity, planning for positive legacies, social responsibility and environmental responsibility. The audit involves assessing legal compliance, support of the local community, labour rights and environmental impact, among other things. Mines initially complete a self-assessment before auditors perform a two-stage report, an initial desk assessment and an on-site check.

The audit allows mines a corrective action period following the initial on-site check to address shortfalls identified in the audit, which Albermarle utilised before a follow-up check.

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Ellen Lenny-Pessagno, global VP of external affairs and sustainability at Albermarle stated: “We are proud to be the first lithium producer to complete an IRMA audit and publish our report.

“This new era of lithium requires responsible mining to achieve a just transition to electrification and digitalisation globally,” she added.

The Salar de Atacama project is only the third mine site to complete its IRMA report and have it published. A further 11 mines worldwide will participate in IRMA reports this year.