Sustainable mining is an objective as well as a tool for balancing economic, social, and environmental considerations. Each of these three dimensions of mining – and sustainable development – has many components, some of which were chosen for closer study in the SUMILCERE project. While there is no single component that in itself provides a definitive argument for or against sustainable mining, the research reveals some that have proven valuable in the process of balancing the different dimensions of sustainability.
In the SUMILCERE project, comparative studies enabled us to identify factors such as the following, which are essential when discussing the balancing in practice of the three dimensions of sustainable mining cited above: the framework and functionality of environmental regulation to protect the environment (environmental sustainability); the competitiveness of the mining industry in light of environmental regulation and its enforcement (economic sustainability); public participation and the opportunities local communities have to influence their surroundings, as well as communities’ acceptance of projects (social sustainability) before and during operations; and the protection of Sámi cultural rights in mining projects (social and cultural sustainability).
Although each of the three dimensions of sustainability leaves room for discretion in the weight assigned to it, ecological sustainability, protected by smart environmental regulation and minimum standards, sets essential boundaries that leave no room for compromises. Economic and social sustainability are possible only within these limits.