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Mining provides vital commodities for a wide range of products and services and has done so through the centuries. The sector occupies the position at the start of the resource supply chain for many other industries. Managed well, mining creates jobs for lower and higher-skilled workers and can “spur innovation and bring investment and infrastructure at a game-changing scale over long time horizons.”9 Mining has historically often been viewed solely through the lens of the sector’s contribution to economic growth, without considering the broader environmental and social impacts and their associated costs, but that is changing. Large-scale mining has a large footprint that significantly changes the immediate and surrounding environment and community dynamics, with the potential for environmental degradation, exacerbating inequality, increased tensions and even conflict.

Society is calling for a net positive contribution from the mining sector over the long term. In the interim, the protection of the environment and human rights should be core minimum goals for the governance of the sector. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an opportunity to re-evaluate mining governance within its broader context. The mining industry can impact positively and negatively across the SDGs. It can make significant contributions to the SDGs by providing decent employment, spurring local business development, developing infrastructure links, and providing revenues that governments can use to provide public services such as health and education and thereby fulfill their human rights obligations. But mining also contributes to many of the challenges that the SDGs are trying to address – environmental degradation, water scarcity, negative impacts on human rights, displacement of populations, worsening economic and social inequality, armed conflicts, gender inequality and gender-based violence, tax evasion, and corruption, and increased risk for many health problems.

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