The Responsible Mining Foundation (RMF) has updated its reporting on the commitments of the world’s mining companies to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, concluding that many of the world’s leading miners are engaging in only “limited action” to reach these targets over the next decade.

The report, ‘Mining and the SDGs – a 2020 status update’ was published today, and builds on much of the reporting done for the Responsible Mining Index (RMI), a flagship study into responsible mining published earlier this year. While the conclusions are broadly similar, that many of the world’s largest miners are making few, and largely superficial, attempts to reach the sustainable development targets, the latest report highlights a number of new trends, such as a lack of reporting across the mining industry, and an imbalance in the SDGs supposedly being targeted.

For instance, the RMF has developed a criteria of nine targets to assess companies on their commitments to reach the SDGs, and of the 38 companies profiled in the RMI, only three were awarded a score of greater than 50% in relation to hitting these nine criteria. Indeed, four firms were awarded a score of zero in this assessment.

Furthermore, the report notes that four SDGs, those pertaining to health, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and life below water, have been particularly ignored by miners. This inaction is particularly frustrating for the RMF, as it notes that health and wellbeing and clean water and sanitation are two of the SDGs that are most commonly invoked by miners in public statements, creating a disconnect between promised and tangible action.

The report also called miners’ own reporting into their sustainable activities “very selective”, making it difficult to draw many concrete conclusions from what mining companies are or are not doing.

However, there are some instances where mining companies are performing admirably, particularly with regard to embedding a culture of SDG management into their corporate governance. The report notes that: “There are a few frontrunners in integrating the SDGs. Evidence of such integration includes, for example, high-level oversight of SDG work within corporate governance, incorporation of the SDGs into company-wide programmes, development of SDG-based performance incentives, and regular reviews of company-wide progress on the SDGs.”

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Indeed, the RMF is encouraged by the progress of many miners who had no considerations or policies in place to deal with the SDGs in earlier years, and acknowledges that progress is progress, despite the relatively slow and inconsistent uptake of new sustainable programmes.

“It is heartening to see many companies showing attention to the SDGs to some degree, given the developmental context within which so much mining takes place,” wrote the report’s authors in their conclusions. “And we know that many companies are working on many mining-related economic, environmental, social, and governance issues that connect directly to the SDGs.

“[Yet] overall, the results of this status update suggest that good practices have not been widely adopted and most mining companies still have considerable room for improvement in taking these strategic steps towards fulfilling their considerable potential to help deliver the SDGs.”