Metals & Mining

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Current language: English
The Metals & Mining industry is involved in extracting metals and minerals, producing ores, quarrying stones, smelting and manufacturing metals, refining metals, and providing mining support activities. Entities also produce iron ores, rare earth metals, and precious metals and stones. Larger entities in this industry are integrated vertically – from mining across global operations to wholesaling metals to customers.

Relevant Issues (11 of 26)

Why are some issues greyed out? The SASB Standards vary by industry based on the different sustainability-related risks and opportunities within an industry. The issues in grey were not identified during the standard-setting process as the most likely to be useful to investors, so they are not included in the Standard. Over time, as the ISSB continues to receive market feedback, some issues may be added or removed from the Standard. Each company determines which sustainability-related risks and opportunities are relevant to its business. The Standard is designed for the typical company in an industry, but individual companies may choose to report on different sustainability-related risks and opportunities based on their unique business model.

Disclosure Topics

What is the relationship between General Issue Category and Disclosure Topics? The General Issue Category is an industry-agnostic version of the Disclosure Topics that appear in each SASB Standard. Disclosure topics represent the industry-specific impacts of General Issue Categories. The industry-specific Disclosure Topics ensure each SASB Standard is tailored to the industry, while the General Issue Categories enable comparability across industries. For example, Health & Nutrition is a disclosure topic in the Non-Alcoholic Beverages industry, representing an industry-specific measure of the general issue of Customer Welfare. The issue of Customer Welfare, however, manifests as the Counterfeit Drugs disclosure topic in the Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals industry.
General Issue Category
(Industry agnostic)

Disclosure Topics (Industry specific) for: Metals & Mining

GHG Emissions
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    Mining operations are energy-intensive and generate significant direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including carbon dioxide from fuel use during mining, ore processing and smelting activities. The extent and type of GHG emissions can vary depending on the metal mined and processed. Regulatory efforts to reduce GHG emissions in response to climate change- related risks may result in additional regulatory compliance costs and risks for metals and mining entities. Entities can achieve operational efficiencies through the cost-effective reduction of GHG emissions. Such efficiencies can mitigate the potential financial effect of increased fuel costs from regulations to limit—or put a price on—GHG emissions.
Air Quality
  • Air Quality

    Non-greenhouse gas (GHG) air emissions from the Metals & Mining industry include hazardous air pollutants from smelting and refining activities. These air pollutants can create significant and localised environmental or health risks. Depending on the metal, uncaptured sulphur dioxide, lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic are among the chief pollutants, along with particulate matter. Financial effects resulting from air emissions will vary depending on the specific location of operations and the applicable air emissions regulations. Active management of the issue—through technological and process improvements—could allow entities to limit the effects of increasingly stringent air quality regulations globally. Entities could also benefit from operational efficiencies that could lead to a lower cost structure over time.
Energy Management
  • Energy Management

    Mining and metals production is often energy-intensive, with a significant proportion of energy consumption in the industry accounted for by purchased electricity. Although fuel combustion on-site contributes to the industry’s direct (Scope 1) GHG emissions, electricity purchases from the grid can result in indirect, Scope 2 emissions. The energy intensity of operations may increase with decreasing grades of deposits and increasing depth and scale of mining operations. The choice between on-site versus grid-sourced electricity and the use of alternative energy can be important in influencing both the costs and reliability of energy supply. Affordable and easily accessible energy is an important competitive factor in a commodity market driven by global competition, and purchased fuels and electricity can account for a significant proportion of total production costs. The way in which an entity manages its overall energy efficiency and intensity, its reliance on different types of energy, and its ability to access alternative sources of energy, can therefore be a material factor.
Water & Wastewater Management
  • Water Management

    Mining and metals production can affect both the availability and the quality of local water resources. Metals and mining entities face operational, regulatory and reputational risks because of water scarcity, costs of water acquisition, regulations on effluents or the amount of water used, and competition with local communities and other industries for limited water resources. Effects associated with water management may include higher costs, liabilities and lost revenues because of curtailment or suspension of operations. The severity of these risks may vary depending on the region’s water availability and the regulatory environment. Entities in the industry may deploy new technologies to manage risks related to water risk, including desalination, water recirculation and innovative waste-disposal solutions. Reducing water use and contamination can create operational efficiencies for entities and reduce their operating costs.
Waste & Hazardous Materials Management
  • Waste & Hazardous Materials Management

    The Metals & Mining industry generates large volumes of non-mineral and mineral wastes, including waste rock, tailings, slurries, slags, sludges, smelting and industrial wastes, some of which may contain toxic, hazardous or chemically reactive substances. Mineral processing sometimes also requires the use of hazardous materials for metal extraction. Waste produced during mining operations, depending on its type, can be treated, discarded, or stored in on- or off-site impoundments or old mining pits. Improper hazardous materials storage or disposal can present a significant long-term threat to human health and ecosystems through potential contamination of groundwater or surface water used for drinking or agriculture purposes. Entities that reduce waste streams while implementing policies to manage risks related to handling hazardous materials may reduce regulatory and litigation risks, remediation liabilities and costs.
Ecological Impacts
  • Biodiversity Impacts

    The development, operation, closure and remediation of mines can have a range of impacts on biodiversity, such as alterations of landscape, vegetation removal and impacts on wildlife habitats. A particularly concerning effect of coal operations is acid rock drainage, in which surface and shallow subsurface water encounters coal mining overburden, contaminating the water with heavy metals and rendering it highly acidic, with harmful effects on humans, animals and vegetation. Biodiversity impacts of mining operations can affect the valuation of reserves and create operational risks. Because of increasing interest in the protection of ecosystems, the environmental characteristics of the land where reserves are located may lead to higher extraction costs. Entities might also face regulatory or reputational barriers to accessing reserves in areas with protected conservation status. Metals and mining entities face regulatory risks related to site reclamation after a mine is decommissioned, in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements to restore mined property according to a previously approved reclamation plan. Material costs may arise from removing or covering refuse piles, meeting water treatment obligations and dismantling infrastructure at the end of life. Furthermore, mining operations are subject to laws protecting endangered species. Entities with an effective environmental management plan for each stage of the project lifecycle may minimise their compliance costs and legal liabilities, face less resistance in developing new mines, and avoid difficulties in obtaining permits, accessing reserves and completing projects.
Human Rights & Community Relations
  • Security, Human Rights & Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Metals and mining entities face additional community-related risks when operating in conflict zones and in areas with weak or absent governance institutions, rule of law or legislation to protect human rights; or in areas with vulnerable communities such as indigenous peoples. Entities using private or government security forces to protect their workers and assets may knowingly, or unknowingly, contribute to human rights violations, including the use of excessive force. Entities perceived as contributing to human rights violations or failing to account for indigenous peoples’ rights may be affected by protests, riots or suspension of permits. These entities could face substantial costs related to compensation or settlement payments, and write-downs in the value of their reserves in such areas. In the absence of applicable jurisdictional laws or regulations to address such cases, several international instruments have emerged to provide guidelines for entities. These instruments include obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples for decisions that affect them. Several countries have implemented specific laws protecting indigenous peoples’ rights, increasing the regulatory risk for entities that violate those rights.
  • Community Relations

    Mining facilities are frequently active over long periods and can have a wide range of adverse effects on communities. Community rights and interests may be affected through environmental and social impacts of mining operations, such as competition for access to local energy or water resources, air and water emissions, and waste from operations. Mining entities rely upon support from local communities to obtain permits and leases as well as to conduct activities without disruptions. Entities may experience adverse financial effects if the community interferes, or lobbies government to interfere, with the rights of a mining entity in relation to their ability to access, develop and produce reserves. In addition to community concerns about the direct impacts of projects, the presence of mining activities may give rise to associated socio-economic concerns, such as education, health, livelihoods and food security for the community. Metals and mining entities engaging in rent-seeking and exploiting a community’s resources without providing proportional socio-economic benefits in return may be exposed to actions by host governments and communities that restrict their activities or impose additional costs. These could include imposition of ad hoc taxes and export restrictions. Entities can adopt various community engagement strategies in their global operations to manage risks and opportunities associated with community rights and interests. Strategies are often underpinned by community engagement integrated into the project cycle. Entities are beginning to adopt a ‘shared value’ approach to provide significant socio-economic benefits to communities and allow them to operate profitably.
Labour Practices
  • Labour Practices

    Working conditions related to metal and mining operations may be physically demanding and hazardous. Labour unions play an important role in representing workers’ interests and managing collective bargaining for better wages and working conditions. At the same time, metals and mining entities often operate in areas where worker rights are inadequately protected. The nuances of worker concerns make management of labour relations critical for metals and mining entities. Conflict with workers can result in labour strikes and other disruptions that can delay or stop production. Work stoppages frequently result in lost revenue and reputational damage. Persistent labour disputes can adversely affect the long-term profitability of mining entities.
Employee Health & Safety
  • Workforce Health & Safety

    Safety is critical to mining operations because of the hazardous working conditions involved. The Metals & Mining industry has relatively high fatality rates compared to other industries. Fatalities and injuries can result from the many hazards associated with the industry, including working with powered haulage and machinery, as well as mine integrity. Poor health and safety records can result in fines and penalties, and an increase in regulatory compliance costs resulting from more stringent oversight. An entity’s ability to protect employee health and safety, and to create a culture of safety and well-being among employees at all levels, may prevent accidents, mitigate costs, reduce operational downtime and enhance workforce productivity.
Business Ethics
  • Business Ethics & Transparency

    Managing business ethics and maintaining an appropriate level of transparency in payments to governments or individuals are significant issues for the mining industry. This is because government relations are important to entities’ conducting business in this industry to gain access to mining reserves. Anti-corruption, anti-bribery, and payments-transparency laws and initiatives create regulatory mechanisms to reduce the risk of misconduct. Violations of these laws could result in significant one-time costs or higher compliance costs, whereas successful compliance with such regulations could avoid adverse outcomes. Entities with significant reserves or operations in corruption-prone countries could face heightened risks. Entities must ensure their governance structures and business practices reduce the risks associated with corruption and wilful or unintentional participation in illegal or unethical payments, or with gifts to government officials or private individuals.
Critical Incident Risk Management
  • Tailings Storage Facilities Management

    The Metals & Mining industry faces significant operational hazards, particularly those associated with the structural integrity of tailings storage facilities (TSFs). A catastrophic failure of such facilities (for example, a dam failure) can release significant volumes of waste streams and potentially harmful materials into the environment, leading to significant impacts on ecosystems, human livelihood, local economies and communities. Such catastrophic incidents may result in significant financial losses for entities and may impair social licence to operate. Robust approaches to tailings facilities design, management, operation and closure, as well as appropriate management of associated risks, can help prevent such incidents from occurring. Entities that adopt comprehensive practices to maintain the integrity and safety of TSFs may do so through ensuring accountability for tailings management at the highest levels of the entity, conducting frequent internal and external independent technical reviews of TSFs and ensuring mitigation measures are implemented in a timely manner in case of a safety concern. Additionally, a strong safety culture and well-established emergency preparedness and response plans can mitigate the impacts and financial implications of such events should they occur. Entity obligations related to long-term remediation and compensation for damages may result in additional financial effects in case of failure. The ability of entities to meet such obligations after an incident has occurred is an additional component of emergency preparedness.

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