Mineral resource governance in the 21st century: gearing extractive industries towards sustainable development

IRP (2020) Mineral Resource Governance in the 21st Century: Gearing extractive industries towards sustainable development. A Report by the International Resource Panel. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya.

In this paper, the UN International Resource Panel (IRP) sets out ways to ensure that international governance of our natural resources becomes intertwined with efforts to deliver on sustainability goals, namely the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Whilst the global agenda has shifted in recent years towards efforts to become less resource intensive, a growing world population, increased urbanisation and the transition to cleaner energy sources mean that mineral resources continue to be essential. Moves towards a circular economy will help to reduce the amount of virgin material we need to extract from the earth, but as a World Economic Forum scenario cited in this report shows, mining will not disappear.

The paper points out the fact that “many of today’s wealthiest countries were built on the back of natural resources”. We now have an opportunity to ensure that the wealth created by mineral extraction can be distributed fairly, by building a system with sustainable development and growth at its heart.

The IRP’s analysis finds more than 80 disparate existing frameworks and initiatives for the governance of mineral resources exist. The challenge for policymakers will be to achieve a more streamlined global framework for governance and sustainability of the extractive sector. One suggestion to achieve this set out in the report is the creation of an International Mineral Agency.

This report stresses that we must step back and assess the most effective way to govern the secure supply of mineral resources humankind needs.

The full report can be found here.