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Is ethics solely pertinent to the fields of mining and geosciences? (by Marita Ahumada, Argentina)

Marita Ahumada
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Over the past decade, mining operations in Argentina and numerous other countries have endured widespread discredit and stigma. Misinformation campaigns, incomplete data dissemination, and the propagation of post-truth narratives have obstructed the acknowledgment of the scientifically grounded and ethically responsible practices employed in modern mining. Despite rigorous adherence to the well-being of all stakeholders, environmental health, and community interests, the industry faces persistent challenges in conveying its commitment to integrity. Furthermore, it remains a vital driver of economic growth for productive nations and a source of tangible benefits for local communities, both evident and equitable.

Across prestigious institutions worldwide, a comprehensive array of disciplines delves into every facet of mining: from technical and social considerations to economic, environmental, educational, legal, and institutional aspects, among others. However, despite this breadth of expertise, individuals across diverse academic backgrounds persist in echoing unsubstantiated slogans without critically examining the veracity behind these assertions.

In the 21st century, we in the mining industry are perplexed by the steadfast anti-mining stance upheld by journalists, researchers, prominent academics, and others, which lacks neutrality, scientific rigor, and objectivity. It is disheartening to witness their dismissal of the wealth of insights provided by esteemed institutions such as the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, IDB, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, WEF, ECLAC, IFC, IMF, International Council on Mining and Metals, International Institute for Sustainable Development, London Bullion Market Association, London Metal Exchange, McKinsey Global Institute, Natural Resource Governance Institute, UNDP, UNESCO, World Gold Council, and International Women in Mining, among countless other reputable organizations, universities, and initiatives worldwide.

The trajectory of responsible mining is guided by a plethora of best practice initiatives, including the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development's Mining Policy Framework, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the International Cyanide Management Code, the Global Tailings Management Standard for the Mining Industry, the Global Reporting Initiative, Towards Sustainable Mining, the E3 Plus Guidance for Responsible Exploration (emphasizing Social Responsibility, Environmental Excellence, and Occupational Health and Safety), the White Paper on Responsible Mining, and the Cape Town Statement on Geoethics by the International Association for Promoting Geoethics.

Geoethics consists of research and reflection on the values that underpin appropriate behaviors and practices wherever human activities interact with the Earth system. It also deals with the ethical, social and cultural implications of geoscience knowledge, education, research, practice and communication, as well as the social role and responsibility of geoscientists in conducting their activities.

Responsible mining entails the application of sustainable development principles and ethical considerations throughout the entire lifecycle of economic mineral resource exploration, exploitation, and utilization. This encompasses the entire value chain, spanning from initial studies and exploration to extraction, processing, refining, waste management, mine closure, and land rehabilitation. Therefore, the question arises: Should we expect societal stakeholders, communicators, and politicians to uphold responsibility and ethical awareness to foster a fair and balanced dialogue?

We recognize that the global transition towards cleaner energy alternatives demands a growing array and volume of minerals. Their extraction must be undertaken with meticulous oversight, ethical standards, and stringent regulations to mitigate adverse impacts while amplifying positive outcomes, particularly the socio-economic advancement of host communities. Conversely, mining enterprises necessitate financial and regulatory stability, alongside convenient access to geodata, to realize their developmental objectives.

Hence, responsible mining hinges not solely on the actions and pledges of mining firms, but equally on the constructive engagement and commitments of all stakeholders. Each individual bears the responsibility to stay well-informed, continually updated, and fully cognizant of all facets of any mining operation that intersects with their lives. Social and environmental accountability is a collective imperative that relies on the active involvement of all stakeholders.

Marita Ahumada for WiM Argentina


MN 2455 CSPG

M.Sc. in Geology and Environmental Management of Mineral Resources

Director of the Advisory Committee of Women in Mining Argentina

Member of the IAPG Task Group on Responsible Mining

Note: This article is a translation, with modifications, from the text published by the same author in:


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effzel rblwal
Mar 31


Mar 21

I appreciate the increasing attention to the geo-ethical aspects of mining. But at the end of the story, all mining is unfortunately inherently unsustainable. A truly sustainable socioeconomic system will have to inexorably minimize the extraction of nonrenewable resources and emphasize recycling as much as possible, along with a drastic decrease in consumption. I would be inclined to say that the only sustainable extractive activity is recycling. But in an ever-expanding capitalist economy, recycling is certainly insufficient.

For capitalism, concepts such as contraction, reduction, downsizing are inconceivable. This is perhaps the aspect that most drives me to general pessimism.

Last, while I have not examined in depth, I am not sure that all the international institutions mentioned in the post…

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