OmmissionsPublished by MAC on 2002-03-04
MMSD has ignored or glossed over many critical issues:
- The infrastructure of war, warfare itself, and the manufacture of weaponry have historically provided the biggest single area of demand for base metals, a highly significant proportion of speciality metals, and a large amount of energy fuels. [see Al Gedicks "Resource Rebels: Native Challenges to Mining and Oil Corporations," South End Press, Cambridge Mass. 2002] . Militarization is surely the antithesis - indeed nemesis - of Sustainable Development. It's paid no attention at all in the MMSD report
- * Nor is uranium mining and processing, or their linkages to weapons production, because - according to MMSD - it's a "very complex" issue (sic) !
- The impacts of coal burning on climate change are acknowledged as highly important but deliberately not discussed "as these debates are covered elsewhere [i.e. in forums other than MMSD] " [Introduction, page 8]. Considering the hugely significant role played by coal mining as a generator of employment, state income and primary energy - but also as destroyer of land and key culprit in global warming - it is astonishing that MMSD has refused to weigh up the socio-economic consequences of scaling down coal usage, as against the ecological consequences of expanding it.
- "Water consumption in mining production ends when operations end" declares the MMSD. Even if this were true (which it patently isn't) it should not be used to justify MMSD's abject failure to discuss all water availability and pollution issues at proper length.
- The growing evidence that cyanide use in gold mining is unacceptable both environmentally and to local communities is underplayed. Nonetheless, UNEP's new "cyanide code" is uncritically regarded as " clearly a better and stronger product" - because it derived from multi-stakeholder discussions [Chapter 16, page 31]
- Corporate devices, such as transfer pricing and manipulating currency exchange rates, used to generate profits at the expense of income to regions or countries, are ignored.
- There are no social or environmental values attributed to the end-uses to which minerals are put, as opposed to their "life cycle" costs. For example, it is accepted without contention that aluminium and lead batteries should continue to boost increased private transportation across the globe [Chapter 5, pages 10-11]: "[t]he private car is a symbol of advancement and success in developing economies" [Chapter 5 page 15]. The potentially damaging impacts of chemical fertilizers, derived from potash mine production, are mentioned in passing, but no life-cycle analysis is proposed, let alone performed. [Chapter 5, page 30]
- There is no recognition that juniors and big mining companies have historically worked closely together to similar ends: on the contrary the MMSD perpetuates the myth of separation between "bad" small outfits and "better" (or at least more responsible) bigger ones [Chapter 6, page 15 and passim].
- Since "[t]here is a long way to go before agreement is reached on the overall health effects of mining" [Chapter 9, page 11]. MMSD decides not to deal with these issues at all in a methodical fashion.
Agenda for change?
According to the MMSD' draft report, its "agenda for change" derives from three tasks: "surfacing" (sic) ideas and information; offering the opportunity to test those ideas with diverse, knowledgeable audiences; and providing a "snapshot" of "where this evolution of ideas stands (sic) and what conclusions can be drawn ".
MMSD claims to have "reviewed existing knowledge" but this is manifestly untrue, since a large number of community-based studies are omitted, along with evidence submitted to tribunals, public hearings, and courts over several years; not to mention voluminous profiles of individual mining companies and critiques of materials use, mining technology et al.
It also says it has "assimilated" suggestions submitted to the project by "many organisations and individuals". On the contrary, far from surfacing, many of these proposals have been left to swim (or sink) in a sea of words.
Hardly surprisingly, the research conducted by staff of the IIED along with accounts of four regional processes, are fairly accessible, but the twelve country baseline studies and the more than 100 expert studies boasted by the project leaders are not.
While the diverse structure for "testing" ideas submitted to MMSD is unexceptional and in theory reasonably open, in practice it has proved for many people confusing to navigate or inaccessible (with its over-reliance on electronic communication, the failure to translate a mass of documentation into Spanish or Chinese and hastiness in preparing some of its input procedures).
Two fundamental flaws in the testing process are barely acknowledged in the MMSD draft report. The first is the carefully considered boycotting of the entire process by many of mining's key critics - above all, community representatives and well-established NGOs. This has undermined the group's claim to global representivity, and in particular the veracity of its regional scooping processes.
Second, the draft report itself was presented on March 4th 2002, with a deadline for all comments by April 17th - thus providing barely six weeks to read a discourse of more than 500 pages and comment on its content. The IIED team will then assimilate and consolidate such comments in just two weeks. - an impossible task if criticisms are to be taken at all seriously. Clearly they will not be.
They called throughout the land for comments on their Endeavors
Miraculously in fourteen days MMSD created its final report.
Thirty days later it quit the earth.
And there was much rejoicing in the mining houses
Because they had got what they wanted all along.