IGF emerged from the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa where delegates recognized the challenges and opportunities related to mining and sustainable development.
It is a voluntary initiative that provides opportunities for national governments with an interest in mining to work collectively to advance the priorities identified in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and—more recently—the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030.
After a decade of growth, Global Affairs Canada decided to move the Secretariat function outside its operations in order to better serve the needs of IGF members and the sector at large. The International Institute for Sustainable Development—one of the world’s leading centers of research and innovation—took over Secretariat functions in October 2015.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development was held in 2002 to assess progress made since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.
In order to demonstrate that mining could be a potentially significant driver of development, a number of countries with an interest in mining decided to take action to change the perception of mining as a threat to development.
The importance of the mining, minerals and metals sector to the economic and social development of many countries was recognized, with the inclusion of Paragraph 46 in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI).
South Africa and Canada sponsored the establishment of the Global Dialogue on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development as a Type 2 Partnership.
The aim was to create a voluntary partnership formed among countries interested in mobilizing and coordinating efforts to implement the identified actions that need to be addressed at all levels in order to enhance the contribution of mining, minerals and metals to sustainable development.
IGF was formed in 2005 when 23 other governments joined as founding members. With the support of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the IGF is the only global Intergovernmental Forum in the sector.
The objective of IGF is to enhance the contribution of the sector to sustainable development by providing governments with a multistakeholder dialogue platform in order to discuss the opportunities and challenges faced by the sector.
IGF has the ability to articulate recommendations for consideration by national governments, other governments, multilateral organizations and other groups, on issues Members decide to address.
Membership grew to 55 countries by 2015.
Metals are essential raw material. Their unique properties, including strength, conductivity and durability, have made them an essential constituent of many key products for society past and present.
Metal mining exists because society needs metals. While recycling accounts for a growing share of metal supply, mining will likely remain a necessary source of materials because of growing demand.
Mining and metals have significant global implications. Mining, while still an important sector of the economy in many developed countries, is becoming increasingly important to many developing countries as well. Likewise, metal use is still primarily taking place in developed countries, but is growing at a more rapid rate in developing countries.
There are also global social and environmental aspects associated with mining and metals. These can be found both at the production (mines) and the product levels, and can affect the developed and developing worlds in a very different but related manner. Additionally, products using metals are globally manufactured and traded, with resulting global implications for sustainable development.
The sustainable development implications of mining and metals are not only global, but many of them are specific to the sector. Mining investments tend to be large. They now increasingly take place in remote areas, particularly in developing countries, where local communities are often outside of the economic mainstream of their national economies. Some of these countries have limited institutional capability to manage the social and economic implications of sudden large investments in remote areas with very poor and isolated communities.
While the legacy of mining is often questioned, there are a growing number of new mining investments in developing countries or remote regions that can be regarded as good examples of investments that can contribute to rural poverty alleviation.
Responsible mining projects can provide opportunities to open roads and bring access to energy, water, education, health services and employment to rural communities, while providing for the sound management of environmental impacts and the reclamation of land affected by mining.
In view of the number of key sustainable development features of the mining and metal sector that are specific to that sector, the number of sector-related initiatives underway and the benefits of widely sharing the outcomes of these initiatives, it was proposed that a global sector-specific initiative be undertaken to promote the contribution of minerals and metals to sustainable development.
The aim was to lead policy considerations that better reflect the reality of the sector, thus facilitating the implementation of sustainable development. There was no global forum, mechanism or initiative with a mandate for national governments to examine the range of mining and metal specific issues with a full life cycle and sustainable development perspective.
Recognizing the sovereignty rights of nations on the management of natural resources, IGF is based on the principles of voluntary partnership and is consultative and advisory in nature.
It provides governments with a dialogue platform to discuss the opportunities provided by the mining, mineral and metals, and to respond to the challenges they pose.
Any Member state of the United Nations may become a member of IGF.
The national focal points are designated by member states and consist of representatives of ministries or agencies with primary responsibility for the development of the mining, minerals and metals sector.
In addition to members, relevant United Nations bodies and specialized agencies, Member states of the United Nations that are not members of IGF, as well as other relevant international organizations related to the sector, can be invited to participate as Observers in IGF.
Several multilateral organizations with an interest and activities in the sector are regular participants in the Forum activities, such as the World Bank (WB), World Economic Forum (WEF), World Gold Council (WGC), International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and others.
The annual meetings are co-hosted by UNCTAD and take place in Geneva. They involve the sharing of experiences and information, consideration and provision of advice and, where appropriate, the making of recommendations for consideration by governments, intergovernmental bodies and others.
Funding is provided by the Government of Canada.
In 2007 IGF members decided to develop a strategy to begin assessing progress in the application of the sustainable development mining practices in their respective countries, in order to report progress to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development CSD 18 and CSD 19 Special Sessions in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
To that end, IGF established a Preparatory Committee to CSD 18-9, and an extensive survey on mining in developing countries (the Mining Survey) was conducted, in order to better address the main sustainability issues concerning the sector.
In the CSD 18 session, the United Nations launched a report that reviewed progress in the implementation of the Agenda 21, the Program for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, and the JPOI in the thematic area of mining.
The report was prepared by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN Secretariat and drawn on inputs provided by governments, major groups, the UN system and IGF.
In 2009 and 2010 the IGF Secretariat performed the process of reviewing the results of the Mining Survey, leading to the Mining Policy Framework document (MPF), submitted and tabled in the CSD 19 in New York, on May 2011.
The MPF was recognized by the UNCSD 19th session as the only government-lead document. The MPF is a compendium of best practices in dealing with the complete set of issues related to mining, minerals and metals sector toward sustainable development.
This framework was developed in order to engage national action and international cooperation, in order to strengthen political commitment and action at all levels to effectively promote sustainable development in the sector
The implementation of the Mining Policy Framework is in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, and the sovereign right of states to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own legal framework policies. Last but not least, the MPF is not a legally binding instrument.
Johannesburg Summit and Plan of Implementation
Paragraph no. 46: Importance of Mining to Sustainable Development
Global Dialogue Initiative Created
IGF Officially Established in Geneva with 25 Member Countries
Mining Survey Performed: Inputs from Member Countries
Mining Survey Collectively Reviewed at the Annual General Meeting in Geneva
Mining Survey Reviewed at the UNCSD 18th Session in New York
Mining Policy Framework Submitted and Endorsed at UNCSD 19th Session in New York
IGF: 43 Members
First Two Regional Meetings: Africa Mining Indaba and PDAC in Toronto
Two Task Forces: Future Funding and MPF Implementation
IGF and MPF Recognized at G8 Lough Erne Summit
New Task Force: Strategic Directions
Secretariat duties transferred to International Institute for Sustainable Development