Mining is a huge industry with a massive global footprint. In 2023, the global mining market grew to $2145.15 billion, up from $2022.6 billion in 2022 – and it’s set to continue to rise. However, pressure from growing research into the negative effects of industrial and small-scale mining has been driving change in the way this industry operates. 

With government initiatives helping push mining companies towards using renewable energy and conserving the natural resources they require, it’s hoped that mining will take less of a toll on our planet in years to come. But this is just one piece of the puzzle. Mining has devastating consequences not only for the environment but also for the ecosystems and local communities in the areas surrounding each mine. 

Mining companies have a social responsibility to protect these communities, but unfortunately, this is often not the case – especially when it comes to small-scale mining in developing countries. Here, we take a look at what social responsibility mining looks like, and why it’s so important.

Sustainable development

The process of researching a landscape, planning a mining area and developing the mine is a lengthy ordeal that must be carefully assessed for its value at each stage. Due to the land degradation, loss of habitats, and draw on natural resources that a mine demands, it’s imperative to think sustainably and ethically in every step of this process. 

Luckily, green grants have tripled between 2017 and 2022, as governments recognise the importance of sustainable mine development. These grants better enable mining businesses to install measures to protect both the environment and their workers, by ensuring toxic chemicals and waste products are disposed of properly, and ensuring health and safety standards are upheld.

Prioritising safety

A socially responsible mine will adhere to laws and regulations that protect its workers from health and safety hazards in the mines. This includes providing adequate P.P.E., reducing exposure to harmful polymeric chemicals, protecting against cave-ins and risk assessments to protect against injuries. 

To do this, mining corporations must ensure their mines have good visibility by installing light sources and offering headlights, ventilation systems to draw out harmful gases to a safe location, and wet fan scrubbers to catch loose particles in the air. 

Vigorous safety standards should be paramount in any mining corporation, and it’s only through the continued prioritisation and implementation of these standards that mining can continue to develop positively.

Protecting local communities

As we’ve already mentioned, mines have a social responsibility to protect the local communities surrounding the operation. But unfortunately, some of the most productive mines in the world are running informally and illegally – for example, Ghana is one of the top 10 gold producers globally, but up to one-third of its gold mines employ thousands of children in dangerous conditions. 

It’s imperative that mining businesses work together to shut down these illegal mines, and promote security and safety for the local communities in areas surrounding their mines. By providing access to fresh drinking water, giving back to the community, and offering fairly paid employment, mines can actually boost the economy of an area and help developing countries find a better quality of life.

A shift in attitude

Socially responsible mining is a way to further not only the mining industry, but also better the lives of thousands of people who depend on mines for their livelihoods. By investing in sustainable, ethical standards when establishing mines, businesses can help drive positive change and protect the environment whilst mining.