Today the Initiative for Responsible Mining (IRMA) released the results of independent audits of Anglo American’s Barro Alto nickel and Minas-Rio iron ore operations against the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining. The mines achieved IRMA 75 when two independent audit firms measured their performance on concrete social and environmental impact criteria.
IRMA oversees the only independent, comprehensive process for assessing individual mines’ performance against an equally governed, consensus-based standard — and for measuring their subsequent progress in reducing social and environmental harm. The rigorous IRMA process invites all those currently or potentially affected by a mine to share their experiences and perspectives with the auditing team.
The independent IRMA system is the only global mining standard that provides equal power to the public sector (communities and Indigenous rights holders, mine workers, and environmental and human rights advocates) alongside the private sector (mining companies, mined materials purchasers and investors).
Barro Alto and Minas-Rio join 17 other industrial-scale mines worldwide that are independently assessing against the IRMA Standard. After an initial self-assessment a participating mine engages a third-party audit firm — trained and approved by IRMA — to conduct a detailed independent evaluation, including on-site visits to the mine and nearby communities.
IRMA 75 means the audit firms ERM-CVS (Barro Alto) and SCS Global (Minas-Rio) verified that the operations met all critical requirements of the IRMA Standard, as well as at least 75% of the Standard’s criteria in each of the four areas: social responsibility, environmental responsibility, business integrity and planning for positive legacies. The full audit reports are available in the Barro Alto and Minas-Rio audit pages at on the IRMA website.
“The information stakeholders need to decide what’s going well — and what may require more attention.”
“This report demonstrates that mines supplying materials essential to the renewable energy transition and the steel supply chain can now point to transparent, independent evaluations of their environmental and social performance,” said Aimee Boulanger, Executive Director of IRMA. “Through detailed IRMA audit reports, mining companies, communities and companies that purchase mined materials can gain the information they need to decide what’s going well — and what may require more attention — at specific mines.”
As the IRMA Standard is recognized and adopted around the globe, these audits are just the first steps in a deepening dialogue between mining companies and those affected by their operations. And because the process is still evolving, IRMA cautions that the initial results should be reviewed and interpreted accordingly.
“These mines began audits during the early Covid years. The timeline was delayed by travel challenges, and then the company’s decision to use the optional corrective action period to make improvements. The public has long awaited opportunity to review the information included here, and we applaud Anglo American for volunteering the first iron and nickel mines for audit against such comprehensive criteria.” Ms. Boulanger went on to say, “That said, the IRMA Standard is relatively new for companies that volunteer to be audited, and even our accredited auditors are still learning. The same is true for community members and workers who are interviewed as part of the process, some of whom may not yet feel comfortable engaging. So the Barro Alto and Minas-Rio audit reports need to be read with this in mind.”
The report also provides an honest accounting of IRMA’s own progress as the Standard and assessment process continue to mature.
“If the results don't fully reflect the experience of communities, Indigenous rights holders or other affected groups, we want to hear from them,” Ms. Boulanger said. “We’ll help them communicate with the company to better understand its performance, and with the auditors on any issues they feel were overlooked in the review. This is a cornerstone of our own commitment to transparency. We invite anyone who has criticisms of our work to join us in making it better. Finding ways to improve is built into our system — and a measure of its success.”
The IRMA Standard is being updated in 2024; input on how to improve the IRMA Standard is welcomed. Chapters in the IRMA Standard include requirements on protection to human rights, water resources, worker health and safety, biodiversity, Indigenous free, prior, informed consent and more.
“Committing to an IRMA audit reflects our desire to improve and our openness to dialogue.”
Ana Sanches, CEO of Anglo American in Brazil, said: “Anglo American’s achievement of IRMA 75 is a first for a nickel and an iron ore mine and is a testament to the hard work of our teams at Barro Alto and Minas-Rio. Participating in IRMA audits for our operations serve as recognition and proof of our commitment to high standard best practice, transparency and assurance, while it also provides independently verified next steps for further improvement. This transparent positive-feedback loop ensures we continue to improve our sustainability practices, leads to better ways to do business and creates greater value for employees, governments, NGOs, customers and communities alike.”