To address unsustainable practices by parts of the newly emerging bauxite mining industry, a coalition of global and national aluminium associations and companies have developed Sustainable Bauxite Mining Guidelines to ensure bauxite mining is sustainable and achieves acceptably low social and environmental impacts during operation and post-closure.

In March this year, the International Aluminium Institute (IAI) along with the Australian Aluminium Council (AAC) and the Brazilian Aluminium Association (BAA) released the guidelines in recognition that global changes are taking form in the bauxite supply, with new countries and new operators entering the market, and sustainable mining practices were becoming increasingly critical to the global reputation of the industry, and should be perceived and valued as a competitive advantage of all mining companies.

Miles Prosser, Executive Director AAC, commented that “good governance reduced environmental legacies, safety incidents, and increased community benefits”, which resulted in “not only better financial outcomes but also enhanced company, country and industry reputation and credibility”.

“It is intended that the Guidelines are relevant to all bauxite producers globally who strive to operate sustainably, not just those who are seeking to achieve best practice,” said Mr Prosser.

Bauxite demand has historically been met by a few large players in the market, who have operated large scale mines. To meet current and future demand, there has been – and will continue to be – an increase in the number of mines, some with less extensive ore bodies and shorter mine lives which respond to opportunities in the market.

According to the guidelines’ authors, this changing nature of the industry means that it needs to “assess cumulative impacts of both large and small operations and their required governance”. The recent influx of new entrants has, in some situations, “led to the emergence of poor mining and environmental practices, with some authorities imposing moratoria or bans on bauxite mining and shipping in response”.

The guidelines provide direction on reducing the impact on biodiversity, land and water and promoting community engagement and integrated rehabilitation and closure activities.

“The Guidelines are primarily intended for use by managers of bauxite mines, representatives of non-government organisations (NGOs), neighbouring communities and government regulators,” concluded Mr Posser.