Mining group, environment NGO seal partnership

Raw materials Reuters.JPG

Global mining giant Rio Tinto and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) this week agreed to work together to improve the sector’s sustainability and conservation record.

The partnership will focus on developing Rio Tinto's biodiversity programmes, exploring emerging green markets and how they relate to Rio Tinto and the mining sector as a whole, and building benchmarks for biodiversity management.

"The relationship aims to help Rio Tinto strengthen its sustainable development efforts, environmental management and delivery of conservation outcomes, while enabling IUCN to increase its awareness and understanding of the conservation and business challenges facing the resources sector," the two organisations announced in a joint press release on Monday (12 July).

Rio Tinto, whose operations span the globe and cover all stages of metal and mineral production, is the world's third-biggest mining company, while IUCN is the world's oldest and largest environmental network and brings together representatives of NGOs and governments.

Although the two groups may appear strange bedfellows, such partnerships are not without precedent.

WWF engages with several companies to promote market change and environmental awareness, generate support for conservation and help them reduce their ecological footprint, including Canon, Coca-Cola, Hewlett Packard, IBM, IKEA and Nokia.

Setting out the thinking behind the "formal collaboration agreement," IUCN Director-General Julia Marton-Lefèvre said both groups "recognise that to find sustainable solutions to environmental and conservation challenges, cross-sector engagement and collaboration are critical".  

"IUCN engages broadly with leaders in the private sector about business's impact on the environment, as it believes that if business is part of a problem it must also contribute to finding and delivering the solutions," Marton-Lefèvre added.

Meanwhile, Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese said the firm was looking forward to working with IUCN to develop "innovative solutions to biodiversity and other sustainable development issues that are an important component of our operations".

"Through our collaborative efforts, we hope to develop programmes and actions that will contribute to enhanced environmental performance" for both Rio Tinto and the resources sector at large, Albanese added.

The partnership will run for a period of three years. 


As the world's population grows and industrialisation takes hold in new corners of the globe, competition for raw materials is intensifying, raising concerns about access to key natural resources for European industry (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on 'Raw materials: Heading for a global resource crunch?').

Fears are also growing about the huge environmental 'footprint' left behind by humanity (EURACTIV 29/10/08).

The 2008 Living Planet Report, by the Global Footprint Network, WWF and the Zoological Society of London, said growing populations are putting so much pressure on Earth's natural resources that two planets will be required by the early 2030s if current lifestyles are to be maintained (EURACTIV 25/09/09).

Meanwhile, many businesses are worried about the growing concentration of global commodity supplies in the hands of a small number of powerful companies like mining giants Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Vale CVRD. 

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