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Environmental and Social Impact Assessments

IGF ESIA Guidance Document for Governments: First draft consultation available now – comments accepted until November 15, 2019

A modern legislative regime provides clear lines of responsibility and accountability. Such a regime establishes a foundation of good governance that leads to the creation of sustainable benefits over the life of the mine. It includes a permitting process requiring the submission of integrated Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs).

The IGF’s Guidance for Governments: Legal Framework of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment in the Mining Sector is a tool to support policy-makers in developing new legislative regimes. It is part of a suite of guidance products created by the IGF for its member governments.

Public Consultation in Progress

The IGF Secretariat has launched a public consultation on the IGF Guidance Document for Governments: Improving Frameworks for Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and Management. The Secretariat invites your comments on the document now through the end of November 15, 2019. Please submit comments via email to cnare@iisd.ca.

This document provides IGF member states and interested stakeholders with a summary of good international practice in legal frameworks for ESIA and related management plans for large-scale mines. While professional organizations have published technical guides on ESIA, guidance on law and policy frameworks for ESIA and related management plans is largely lacking in the literature. This guide aims to fill this gap for governments and other stakeholders who would like to improve legal frameworks and governance practices.

The guide identifies key issues for ESIA and environmental and social management. It describes key government actions for each phase of the life of the mine, from exploration to mine closure and the post-mining transition. The guide’s annexes provide additional resources, including a Good Governance Checklist for each phase of the life of the mine with questions, tools and strategies for governments to consider when assessing or revising legal frameworks and processes; a list of key terms with definitions; and a list of additional references and resources for further study of this topic.

The consultation draft will also be reviewed by the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA), the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment and the Secrétariat International Francophone Pour L’Évaluation Environnementale (SIFÉE).

Full Report Summary

Timeline for Guidance Document Development

Environmental and social impact assessments timeline

 

Why Is the IGF Working on ESIAs?

At the 2017 Annual General Meeting (AGM), IGF member countries voted for the fourth Guidance for Governments to focus on helping governments implement the Legal and Policy Environment of the Mining Policy Framework (MPF). ESIAs are essential tools for any process related to the granting of environmental permits or mining authorizations. Unfortunately, ESIAs are often poorly implemented in the initial phases of mining projects or inappropriately monitored during subsequent operational phases.

As a result, mines often operate with insufficient environmental and social management plans and/or no closure plans or related financial guarantees. This can lead to conflicts between governments and mining companies at later stages of the mine operation or near the expected end date of operations. In some cases, mines are simply abandoned, leaving local communities and governments with heavy environmental, economic and social impacts.

Permitting processes that adequately address the timing, scope, development and closure of mine developments can lead to enhanced environmental, social and economic outcomes during the life cycle of the mine.

Scoping Documentation

Scoping research was undertaken to inform the development of the guidance document. One study is the Background Document: Legal Framework of Environmental and Social Impact in the Mining Sector published by the IGF Secretariat in January 2019. The purpose of this background paper, available in English and French, is to identify the issues and problems related to the legal framework of ESIAs and related plans in legal and regulatory frameworks. It also delves into the implications for how the mining sector is governed, while exploring avenues for action and reflecting on appropriate solutions.

Our Experts

Jill Baker is a senior environmental and social assessment specialist with Golder Associates with more than 20 years of experience in environmental policy and ESIA practice.

Kristi Disney Bruckner is the executive director of the Sustainable Development Strategies Group. She is an attorney with over 15 years of experience working on complex international law and policy issues with a focus on the mining sector.

Luke J. Danielson is the president and co-founder of the Sustainable Development Strategies Group. He is an attorney, professor, researcher and consultant on mineral policy, national development strategies, and environmental and social performance in the mining and oil and gas industries.

Clémence Naré is the outreach manager and law advisor with the IGF, responsible for supporting member countries in developing sustainable resource extraction laws, policies and programs.

Suzy Nikièma is an international law advisor for IISD’s Economic Law and Policy Program (ELP). She provides legal and policy advice on sustainable investment and leads training sessions on mining issues in Africa with the IGF.

Marina Ruete is a senior international and comparative law advisor with the IGF. Her work with the IGF focuses on implementing international best practices on mining policy and law with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean.

Carolina Leseigneur Torres is an environmental impact assessment specialist and terrestrial biologist with Golder Associates who focuses on developing environmental approvals and permits for mining and other sectors.