April 2022

Mining and Sustainable Development: an Overview

Sustainable development is the creation of a balance between development and the environment, and is composed of three important principles of environment, community and economy. All three of these parameters are related to each other and the imbalance in each will upset the balance in the other categories.

The interrelationship between mining and sustainable development requires one to do the other. On the one hand, the limited mineral resources, the possibility of their depletion and the concerns about their scarcity for future generations, and on the other hand, the social, economic and environmental problems caused by mining and regardless of the environment and surrounding communities resulted in sustainable development making its way to the mining sector as a need to protect natural, human and social capital.

Mining and the environment perseverance can happen together

Sustainable development – in a simple term – is defined as improving the quality of life, as well as the quality of life of future generations. In fact, sustainable development is the achievement of economic and social goals in such a way that resources are maintained in the long run, the environment is protected and human health and well-being are guaranteed.

Sustainable development, along with economic growth and human development in a society, seeks to study continuous development through simultaneous attention to the three categories of economic, social and environmental. Developed countries at the beginning of the development path were able to take the initial steps of development by relying on natural and mineral resources and extracting them. Over time, due to disregard for environmental issues and social consequences and a purely economic view of the issue, problems were created that gradually, paying attention to these issues along with the economic aspects of these activities, led to the issue and the concept of sustainable development.

Indigenous people are one of the main stakeholders in mining

Today, economic activities have consequences such as widespread environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources for future generations. Hence, it can be challenging to oppose sustainability goals. Mining as a widespread economic activity also has many positive and negative effects on humans and their environment. Expressing the positive effects of mining activities, we can point out that today, mineral resources are the core of human activities from construction, home appliances, industrial machinery and energy to advanced space technologies. Also, the mining industry plays an important role in economic development and improving the quality of human life by providing jobs and income. In addition to the positive effects of mineral extraction and processing, many environmental effects such as deforestation, surface and groundwater pollution, soil erosion, air pollution, loss of land and natural landscapes, climate change through energy consumption, etc. exist. Furthermore, along with the negative effects of mining activities in an area, we may mention its social consequences. For instance, falling mineral prices or the end of mining in an area can lead to unemployment and migration. Therefore, in order to protect the environment, control social consequences and create a dynamic economy, sustainable development has entered the mining sector.

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