Geneva, 26 November 2008 - About 80 participants representing over 30 countries participated in the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals, and Sustainable Development (IGF) held from 24-26 November at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Forum, hosted by UNCTAD, is an outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg in 2002. The IGF is the only global intergovernmental policy forum in the mining/metal sector. It is a voluntary initiative officially established in 2005 by national governments interested in promoting good governance in the management of mineral resources.
On behalf of the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, the meeting was opened by Harmon Thomas, Head of UNCTAD´s Special Unit on Commodities, who noted the renewed importance of commodities under UNCTAD´s mandate and the development opportunities that commodities can provide to developing countries. He reiterated UNCTAD´s support for the Forum.
This year´s meeting focused on fiscal and legislative frameworks as they relate to investment decisions, revenue sharing, mine closure and abandoned mines, as well as the contribution of the IGF to the upcoming United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) 2010-11 that will review progress in the mining sector´s contribution to WSSD´s Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. Delegates noted the recent significant drop in commodity prices and growing metal stocks due to reduced demand. While this will impact investment in new mining ventures in the short term, there is confidence that this situation will be temporary. Continued growth in many developing countries will again stimulate demand and drive prices up, although possibly not to the highs of recent years.
Presentations by representatives of both the World Bank-hosted Community and Small Scale Mining (CASM) initiative and the Belgian Royal Institute of International Affairs focused on artisanal mining. Delegates reaffirmed that understanding miners´ perspectives is critical for effective progress and for build on existing structures.
Members recognized the importance of transparency in mineral resources governance. In this context they expressed support for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The Minister of Mines and Energy of Ethiopia, Alemayehu Tegenu, announced that "Ethiopia wants to become a member of EITI in order to help our country maximize the benefits of our mineral development."
An in-depth discussion of fiscal and legislative frameworks reviewed different forms of royalties and taxes related to mining and the implications of each for governments and industry. Clearly, there is not one optimum approach for all countries. Specific needs and the management capacity of each country will likely dictate the selected approach. Governments have to ensure that they have the financial expertise to monitor and analyze company reports to ensure that companies pay the taxes they owe. The Minister of Mineral Resources of Sierra Leone, Abubakar Jalloh, stressed that "discussions at the Forum have been extremely helpful to Sierra Leone, especially given that it is currently reviewing its mining agreements."
Delegates were informed about a new specific tax law implemented in Chile and the process that led to its development. The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) shared the conclusions of its multi-stakeholder Resource Endowment Initiative. The findings showed the extent of and varied benefits that mining has generated in some countries, locally and nationally. The Vice Minister of Mining from Peru, Mr. Isasi, stated that…"mining is a significant contribution to the attainment to the Millennium Development Goals and a process of converting natural into other forms of sustainable capital."
Delegates reviewed the most recent developments in dealing with mine closures including orphaned and abandoned mines in different jurisdictions around the world. Experiences were shared by the Post Mining Alliance, the Blacksmith Institute, and Anglo-American. Participants expressed the view that increased support from the mining industry and the international community will be required to address this serious problem effectively.
Of critical importance to the IGF members is the development of a strategy for reporting progress to the special session of the UNCSD 2010-11, which will focus on the mining/metal contribution to sustainable development. Members committed to prepare national reports on the importance of mining to growth and poverty reduction in their countries.
As a follow-up to the Heiligendamm G8 Summit in 2007, representatives from the EU and Germany shared information on the EU "Communication on the sustainable access to non-energy raw materials for the European economy" and Germany´s "Initiative for Certified Trading Chains" being carried out as a pilot project in Africa´s Great Lakes region.
This year´s accession to the IGF of Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Peru, and Sierra Leone brought Forum membership to forty-two. Prospective members present at the meeting included Chile, Ecuador, and Germany. Financial support for the Forum was provided by Natural Resources Canada, the United Kingdom Department for International Development, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada. Support was also provided by UNCTAD.