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Environmental Management

Mineable mineral deposits exist in both convenient and inconvenient locations. They can be remote or close to cities and towns, near water resources and sensitive ecosystems, and areas prone to fierce storms or earthquakes. Governments can use environmental management throughout the mining life cycle to avoid or mitigate negative impacts and facilitate successful remediation. Conversely, a failure to effectively manage operations can threaten their continued viability and undermine the relationships between a mining company, affected communities, and all levels of government.

Effective environmental management is founded on legal frameworks, regulations, and policies that position governments for successful management throughout the mining life cycle.

To help governments in this regard, the IGF Secretariat’s Guidance for Governments: Environmental Management and Mining Governance:

  • Summarizes international practices, highlighting universally applicable standards and practices to develop and implement legal frameworks, regulation, and policy
  • Identifies important legislative, regulatory, and policy tools and mechanisms
  • Outlines what governments must do before, during, and after mining

Drawing from the IGF’s Mining Policy Framework (MPF), the guidance also highlights the key issues, benchmarks, and standards in four main areas of environmental management in mining—waterbiodiversitywaste, and emergency preparedness and response—and governments’ role in ensuring that each is managed in support of sustainable development.

Read our case studies on mine water and waste management


Key Points on Environmental Management

The IGF Guidance for Governments: Environmental Management and Mining Governance reviews the four main areas of environmental management in mining. The following table summarizes the importance of these four areas and related roles of government in overseeing their management.

Key Management Area Importance of Management & Roles of Government

Governments must regulate water use, discharges, and quality at the watershed level to protect water resources for all users and the ecosystems they depend on. Mining operations use large amounts of water to:

  • Process ore
  • Supply camp operations
  • Suppress dust
  • Transport slurry

Mining projects can have direct and indirect impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Governments should enact policies that follow the mitigation hierarchy to avoid:

  • Habitat loss
  • Ecosystem fragmentation and degradation
  • Water, air, soil, and noise pollution
  • Human population growth
  • Increased hunting, fishing, food gathering, and land clearance for agriculture
  • Unintentional introduction of invasive species
Mine Waste

Governments must ensure the following waste systems and facilities are chemically and physically stable to eliminate the risk of failure and minimize the risk and exposure to people, land, agriculture, vegetation, and animals:

  • Waste rock
  • Tailings and related facilities
  • Spent heap leach pads and facilities
  • Sludges and precipitations from water treatment or mineral recovery
  • Dust
Emergency Preparedness & Response

Governments must ensure that all stakeholders identify and understand risks across the mine life cycle and that they are prepared to prevent, respond to, and recover from them. Emergency preparedness and response programs should include:

  • Risk assessment
  • Preparedness and prevention plans
  • Response plans
  • Recovery plans
  • Crisis communications plans


Case Studies


Surface Water Monitoring for the Mining Sector: Frameworks for Governments


Why Is the IGF Working on Environmental Management?

The responsible management of natural resources and ecosystems—including soils, plants, animals, water and air, and the services they provide—is important to any society seeking sustainability. These elements underpin the health of communities and economies and must be protected for society to thrive in the long term.

At the 2019 IGF Annual General Meeting, member governments expressed a need for guidance on environmental management practices and policies to help them better balance resource extraction with environmental protection and directed the IGF Secretariat to develop a guidance document.


As part of a global public consultation in 2020, the IGF released a draft of the guidance and collected feedback from members and other stakeholders. The Secretariat also hosted a digital consultation on the Goxi platform that solicited input from experts in the field. The IGF incorporated all the feedback from the consultations into the final document.

More Information

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