Is this the most exciting or depressing document I read all week? (Mining conglomerates edition)

The OECD has gotten mining companies together to sign an agreement on what they will and won’t do. Joan Esteban pointed me to Annex 2, on the lists of things the companies commit not to do:

  1. While sourcing from, or operating in, conflict-affected and high-risk areas, we will neither tolerate nor by any means profit from, contribute to, assist with or facilitate the commission by any party of:

    1. any forms of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment;
    2. any forms of forced or compulsory labour, which means work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of penalty and for
      which said person has not offered himself voluntarily;
    3. the worst forms of child labour;
    4. other gross human rights violations and abuses such as widespread
      sexual violence;
    5. war crimes or other serious violations of international humanitarian
      law, crimes against humanity or genocide.
  2. We will immediately suspend or discontinue engagement with upstream suppliers where we identify a reasonable risk that they are sourcing from, or linked to, any party committing serious abuses as defined in paragraph 1.

  3. We will not tolerate any direct or indirect support to non-state armed groups through the extraction, transport, trade, handling or export of minerals. “Direct or indirect support” to non-state armed groups through the extraction, transport, trade, handling or export of minerals includes, but is not limited to, procuring minerals from, making payments to or otherwise providing logistical assistance or equipment to, non-state armed groups or their affiliates who…

The list goes on and on.

While on the one hand you might think “I’m so glad they are agreeing to this”, the other reaction is “good grief, you mean that this agreement actually still has to be negotiated and signed in 2014!?”

Also, a medium depressing afterthought: “They wouldn’t have bothered to agree if they didn’t think it was in their financial interests.”

36 thoughts on “Is this the most exciting or depressing document I read all week? (Mining conglomerates edition)

  1. C. “the *worst* forms of child labour” (emphasis added)

    How is this defined? Seems very vague, no? But maybe it’s established terminology…

  2. There’s not much wrong with this guidance, and in general there’s lots of good guidance out there for mining companies. The problem is enforcement; for the OECD guidelines, countries commit to promote and encourage implementation. The only enforcement mechanism is the National Contact Point, which has a mandate for mediation and conciliation. Very few countries have implemented any teeth to other enforcement mechanisms either.

  3. Enough with the hot takes on child labour – I don’t like it any more than you but it is unfortunately a fact of life in many parts of the world. Trying to eliminate all forms of child labour from the mining supply chain would likely do more harm than good. Think of a farming cooperative supplying produce to a mining camp – if any kids help out and the contract gets canceled, the entire family is likely worse off. Getting large companies engaged with their suppliers to try and implement some basic workplace standards will probably result in better outcomes.

  4. Hi Chris – Forgive my ignorance, but I don’t see any link to any recent OECD agreement with mining companies. The guidance you link to has been published since 2013 and is a document we have been working with in depth for the past two years, as it is an integral part of compliance with the U.S. conflict minerals law. The U.S. law is designed to force public U.S. companies and their suppliers to put pressure on mines, smelters, and refiners to adhere to this OECD guidance document. If there has been an update whereby mining companies signed an agreement, I would love to see a link on this! That would in fact be very good news.

  5. Hi Chris,
    After watching “Virunga”, a documentary that recounts how an international oil company conducts its business in Eastern Congo, the documents seems the most relevant–and saddening.

  6. Hi Chris,
    After watching “Virunga”, a documentary that recounts how an international oil company conducts its business in Eastern Congo, the document you mention seems the most relevant–and dispiriting.