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Mining governance and standards in emerging markets

For investors, good practices of reporting on mineral deposits and exploration activities build trust in a country’s mining capabilities. As more countries ban the use of cyanide and mercury in gold mining, mining regulations and standards have also improved dramatically in recent years. To accommodate new mining codes in various jurisdictions, companies have evolved their operations to be cleaner and safer for miners and the environment.

Mining regulations in developed countries, such as Australia and Canada, have been seen as models by some emerging markets. By adopting seminal pieces of mining legislation, this dispels fears of lax standards and ensures that mining operations in emerging markets are conducted in a sustainable manner. 1

Kazakhstan is a good example of an emerging market that is set on advancing its domestic mining standards. As with many other countries, early-stage and highly risky exploration activities are usually carried out by smaller, junior mining operators. However, exploration in Kazakhstan has been limited during the past few decades, and the hard minerals sector has been far less successful in attracting foreign investment than the hydrocarbons sector. Kazakhstan’s recent reform efforts are aimed in part at closing this gap and creating a much more attractive environment for investment in new exploration and extraction. 2

The Central Asian country has in place a Mining Code, also known as the Code on Subsoil and Subsoil Use (“SSU Code”), which is based on aspects of current Australian mining legislation. 3  Kazakhstan’s SSU Code regulates gold mining activities and requires mining operations incorporate standards for environmental protection. 4 It introduced a number of improvements in the regulatory environment, among which, it included a streamlined licensing process which follows from the Kazakh government’s commitment to adopting Western Australia’s standards. 5  This brings into practice a “first-come-first-served” model to the licensing process, and also gives exclusivity guarantees to exploration license holders to obtain extraction licenses in relevant areas.

With the SSU Code, the environmental assessment process constitutes part of the licensing decisions and veto rights have been granted to environmental authorities. Through the legislative framework, provisions are also made for water quality assessments as part of the overall process. The new SSU Code also commits authorities to providing free access to geological data, and re-affirms Kazakhstan’s commitment to transparency reporting through an adherence to the international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) standards. 6

In 2016, Kazakhstan also became a member of the Committee for Mineral Reserves International Standards (CRIRSCO). 7 By aligning its reporting standards with that of the CRIRSCO, this placed Kazakhstan on par with other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada, and Chile. 8 Kazakhstan’s membership in CRIRSCO will boost its mining sector and allay the concerns of potential investors, who may have been hesitant to consider Kazakhstan due to its Soviet legacy reporting requirements.

By bringing mining legislation into line with competitive international models and fostering an environment that favours investment, the Kazakh government’s actions have paid off handsomely. A number of jurisdictions, including Australia, Finland, Germany, and the UK, have acknowledged the improvements made to the new legal and regulatory framework of Kazakhstan’s mining sector. The Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2017 also found that Kazakhstan was the most attractive jurisdiction in Asia based on its mining sector’s investment attractiveness rating. 9

On the mining front, the country faces the challenge of managing hazardous waste deposits left behind by legacy mines from the Soviet era. 10 Mining operators in Kazakhstan, like most other mining jurisdictions, are responsible for the rehabilitation of mining sites during mine closure. Current administrative mechanisms of financing mine closure in many countries carry risks for the environment, the economy, communities, as well as for the operators. But by reevaluating their mining assets and employing Clean Mining’s non-toxic gold recovery reagent and dewatering process, mining companies in Kazakhstan and in many emerging markets around the world will be able to mine for gold in a sustainable and clean way.

In February 2020, the International Council on Mining and Metals announced the implementation of a set of standards to improve responsibility in mining activities. 11  With ten “mining principles” that call for tangible change and progress for the industry as a whole, the global mining industry is set to dramatically change the way they work for the better of the community and environment. 12 Emerging markets like Kazakhstan will be at the forefront of driving this positive change, as they are rapidly developing regulatory frameworks that will ensure fair, consistent, and transparent application of rules and procedures that are in line with sustainable development practices. 13

High environmental standards can be achieved by the gold mining industry. Clean Mining’s cyanide-free and mercury-free gold recovery reagent and dewatering process can make a positive impact at mining operations of all sizes, and mining companies can be assured that their operations will create positive socio-environmental, economic, and financial impacts without the risks of cyanide and mercury contamination that would threaten the livelihoods of mining communities.

 

Clean Mining is part of the Clean Earth Technologies group.

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[1] Anastasia Bogdanova, “Kazakhstan: Mining Law 2020: Kazakhstan,” Minex: Eurasian Mining Information portal (Minex, March 5, 2020), https://www.minexforum.com/en/kazakhstan-mining-law-2020-kazakhstan/.

[2] The Kazakh SSU Code came into force on 29 June 2018, and it is a new comprehensive legislative act that has replaced previously existing legislation on subsoil. For more on the institution and norms of which secure the basis of regulation in the sphere of subsoil use and regulate various types of relations arising from the use of subsoil, see, Maxim Telemtayev, “A Brief Overview of the Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan ‘On Subsoil and Subsoil Use,’” White & Case LLP, November 28, 2018, https://www.whitecase.com/publications/alert/brief-overview-code-republic-kazakhstan-subsoil-and-subsoil-use.

[3] Miguel Castro, et. al., “Reform of the Mining Sector in Kazakhstan: Investment, Sustainability, Competitiveness,” Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Enhancing Competitiveness in the Mining Sector in Kazakhstan 2018, 2018, https://www.oecd.org/eurasia/countries/Kazakhstan_Mining_report_ENG.pdf.

[4] Ibid, p.7.

[5] Ibid, p.14.

[6] Ibid, p.8.

[7] Zhanar Faizuldayeva, “A Comparative Study of Regulatory Approaches to Mine Closure with a Special Emphasis on the Current Situation in the Former Soviet Union,” Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Mine Closure, 2016, https://doi.org/10.36487/acg_rep/1608_25_faizuldayeva.

[8] See, Nurgul B. Abdreyeva and Azamat A. Kuatbekov, “Mining in Kazakhstan,” Lexology, July 18, 2018, https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=93e7864c-c2b8-420f-acd8-ce281beec682.

[9] In the Fraser Institute’s 2017 annual survey of mining and exploration companies, Kazakhstan outperformed other Asian jurisdictions, with respondent ratings improving most significantly for the legal system and the reduction of uncertainty regarding administration, interpretation, or enforcement of existing regulations. See, Ashley Stedman and Kenneth Green, “Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2017,” Annual Survey of Mining Companies: 2017 (Fraser Institute, 2017), https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/survey-of-mining-companies-2017.pdf. For more on their 2017 survey on mining and exploration companies, see, https://www.fraserinstitute.org/studies/annual-survey-of-mining-companies-2017.

[10] Antoine Blua, “’Dirty 30′: Environment Group Names the World’s Dirtiest Cities,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, February 2, 2012), https://www.rferl.org/a/1078702.html.

[11] “A New ESG Mining Standard Will Help Drive Responsible Production,” ICMM • A new ESG mining standard will help drive responsible production, February 22, 2020, https://www.icmm.com/en-gb/news/2020/a-new-esg-mining-standard.

[12] “Mining Principles,” International Council on Mining and Metals; Mining Principles (International Council on Mining and Metals 2020, 2020), https://www.icmm.com/mining-principles.

[13] For more on how emerging markets are outperforming their counterparts from the developed world, see, Chris Lo, “Where next for Mining’s Dominant Emerging Markets?,” Mining Technology | Mining News and Views Updated Daily, October 20, 2014, https://www.mining-technology.com/features/featurewhere-next-for-minings-dominant-emerging-markets-4401234/

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