Responsible gold mining
Responsibly undertaken, gold mining and its associated activities can have a transformative effect on socio-economic development in countries where gold is found. When produced in conformance to high social, environmental and safety standards, gold provides employment opportunities, improved infrastructure and tax revenues. It can also drive foreign direct investment and generate foreign exchange. In 2013 the industry made an economic contribution of more than US$171 billion to the top 15 gold-mining economies.
Maximising the development potential of mining requires continuous attention and discussion. Transparency is critical – both around the operational activities and the economics of gold mining.
Respect for local societies and human rights are of particular importance for responsible gold-mining companies. Many companies undertake their own social responsibility programmes, as well as sign up to international standards such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.
Responsible gold mining also means addressing concerns that resources could fund unlawful activity, particularly when operating in areas affected by armed conflict, such as civil war or militia activity. In 2012, the World Gold Council, working with our Members, developed the Conflict-Free Gold Standard, a common approach by which gold producers can assess and provide assurance that their gold has been extracted in a manner that does not cause, support or benefit unlawful armed conflict or contribute to serious human rights abuses or breaches of international humanitarian law.
In 2019, we launched the Responsible Gold Mining Principles (RGMPs), a new framework that set out clear expectations for consumers, investors and the downstream gold supply chain as to what constitutes responsible gold mining. Working with our members, the world’s leading gold mining companies, and collaborating with key industry stakeholders, the World Gold Council has set out the Principles that it believes address key environmental, social and governance issues for the gold mining sector.
Managing the environmental impact of operations is also a vital element of responsible gold mining. Responsible companies take great care in designing and following policies that preserve the local biodiversity and water quality. The World Gold Council and our Members support the International Cyanide Management Code. Developed in 2000, it provides a framework for enhancing the protection of human health and reducing the potential for environmental impacts.
Reporting, auditing, monitoring and training are at the core of responsible environmental management. Several voluntary codes and standards have been adopted across the industry. These include the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System and the International Council on Mining & Metals Sustainable Development Framework.
We also recognise that climate change imposes very substantial risks to the global economy and socio-economic development. We produced two pieces of research - Gold and climate change: an introduction and Gold and climate change: current and future impacts - to firstly understand the gold industry’s green house gas emissions and then secondly how the industry can adapt in the face of climate change in order to transition to a net zero carbon future by 2050.
The safety and wellbeing of employees, contractors and local communities is a fundamental concern of responsible gold-mining companies. The International Council of Mining and Minerals’ Sustainable Development Framework, which many responsible mining companies adhere to, includes a commitment to work for the continuous improvement of any aspect of mine operations that could have a direct impact on the wellbeing of workers, contractors and communities.