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Anglo says Brazil mines are first iron, nickel properties worldwide to complete IRMA responsible mining audit

Diversified miner Anglo American said Feb.7 its Minas-Rio iron ore and Barro Alto nickel mines in Brazil have been assessed against the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance's mining standard

IRMA Barro Alto

Diversified miner Anglo American said Feb.7 its Minas-Rio iron ore and Barro Alto nickel mines in Brazil have been assessed against the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance's mining standard, making these the first iron ore and nickel-producing mines worldwide to have completed an IRMA audit.

Both mines gained an IRMA 75 performance level during the assessment, Anglo said in a statement.

Anglo's Unki platinum mine in Zimbabwe was the first-ever mine to publicly commit to IRMA's independent audit, having also achieved IRMA 75 rating in 2021, the miner said.

Environmental, social and governance concerns have sprung to the fore in mining in recent years as demand for many minerals has surged for clean energy transition applications.

This has spawned a new and competitive market for mine ratings, both by major credit rating agencies -- even while these still focus more on the performance of mining companies than specific mines -- specialist raters such as Digbee ESG, and sectorial standards bodies including IRMA and the International Council on Metals and Mining (ICMM), which may assess specific mine operations.

ESG sensitivity in Brazil is particularly high following fatal tailings dam collapses in 2015 and 2019 at properties mined by Vale and BHP.

IRMA's Standard for Responsible Mining has been developed over a decade via public consultation with miners, downstream users of mined products, NGOs, labor unions and communities, and is considered a rigorous certification processes.

IRMA said its scoring system recognizes four levels of performance: IRMA Transparency, in which a mine is third-party-assessed and publicly shares its scores; IRMA 50 or 75, signifying that a mine meets a core set of critical requirements together with at least 50% or 75% of the requirements in each of the four sections of the Standard for Responsible Mining; and IRMA 100, which signifies the mine meets all of the Standard's requirements.

"The IRMA assurance process has provided us with a valuable opportunity to measure our performance at Minas-Rio and Barro Alto against international best sustainability practices and identify next steps for improvement," said Ana Sanches, CEO of Anglo American in Brazil.

The miner last year launched a digital traceability platform called Valutrax, designed to help customers have visibility over its products, noted Ruben Fernandes, Anglo American's regional director for the Americas.

Anglo has committed to having all its operations assured against recognized responsible mining standards by 2025, the executive said.

Other Anglo American operations that have been independently audited include the Mototolo, Amandelbult and Mogalakwena platinum group metals operations and the Kolomela and Sishen iron ore operations, all in South Africa. The outcomes of these audit reports are still pending, Anglo said.

ArcelorMittal mine assessment

Steelmaker ArcelorMittal has committed to a third-party independent assessment of its Andrade iron ore operation in Brazil's Minas Gerais state against the IRMA Standard for Responsible Mining, IRMA announced Jan. 25.

This assessment will be carried out by California-based SCS Global, an IRMA-approved independent audit firm. After the SCS draft audit report is reviewed by IRMA and ArcelorMittal, the company may release the report or has the option to take up to twelve months to implement corrective actions and be re-assessed before a final report is published and a performance level assigned, IRMA said on its website.

Other IRMA audits are currently underway at mines operated by Syrah Resources in Mozambique (graphite) and by Eramet Group in Senegal (mineral sands).