Declaration of the World Forum on Sustainability
As a result of the worldwide co-operation in mining science and resource technology, the signatories have created a permanent international platform, known as the World Forum of Universities of Resources on Sustainability (WFURS). In order to promote fruitful co-operation, the representatives of 58 Universities of Resources from 39 countries have decided to sign the following memorandum of understanding.
Definition of Sustainability
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Report of the Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future, 1987).
The Supply and Sustainability of Raw Materials
The exploitation of raw materials found in the Earth’s crust is both part of a service in the interest of humankind and the basis for the development of modern societies. Thanks to the exploitation of mineral and fossil resources, we are able to enjoy the comforts of our everyday life and achieve the fulfilment of our basic human needs, such as habitation (building materials and energy) and food (fertilizer), as well as mobility (base metals) and communication (electronic metals). Further aspects of exploitation relate to the hitherto non-sustainable extraction of underground water resources (overpumping), the insufficient treatment of used water, biodiversity, landscapes, ocean water bodies and inappropriate soil management. In addition to utilising primary raw materials, the recyclability of secondary raw materials must receive increasing attention. Only recycling processes are able to close the previously incomplete material cycles in a sustainable way and thus limit the exploitation of raw materials from the earth’s crust to a necessary minimum.
The commodities market is characterised by a constant increase in demand, due to a growing global population, to globalisation, industrialisation and a steady improvement of living standards. Strategies designed to reduce the consumption of raw materials or to promote the further development of recycling will not suffice to prevent the medium-term production of raw materials, but they might provide significant new approaches that can help minimise the exploitation of the earth’s crust. The world’s ever-increasing demand for raw materials provokes the extraction of resources from more and more complex deposits under increasingly extreme conditions. Thus, intervention in natural environments and urban areas cannot be completely excluded, but should be minimised. However, risks and hazards for environment and society may increase.
The mining sciences are faced with the great challenge of not only securing additional raw material supplies to satisfy the growing demands of the future, but also to ensure that this is done in an economically priced, environmentally friendly, socially acceptable and safe manner. Particularly important focal points in this context are the control, minimisation and exclusion of the negative consequences that the feedstock industry has on the environment. Therefore, further development of the principle of sustainable and responsible resource management is a mission of utmost urgency.
Detrimental Consequences of Primary Raw Material Processes (Mineral Processes)
The involved universities dealing with the issue of natural resources and primary raw material processes, particularly exploration, extraction, processing and further processing of mineral and fossil resources – hereafter named Resource Universities – state that the raw material processes lead to an intervention in existing natural, socio-cultural, ecological and economic systems and relationships, which, despite all efforts, may still have negative effects.
This can result in negative consequences for the protected earth resources (water, air, soils, humankind and living nature) as well as for cultural and material goods. Unfortunately, and in spite of raised awareness, non-sufficient control of the raw material processes still leads to significant negative consequences with partly catastrophic effects, such as leakages in deep-sea drilling, dam breaks at residue dumps, pollution of ground- and surface water, large-scale landslides, mine gas explosions, rock bursts and other events, as numerous recent incidents have shown. The reputation and attractiveness of the resource industry suffers from such events.
Causes of Negative Consequences
Causes of negative consequences in the mining industry are complex. This includes lack of or inaccurate knowledge, faulty management and lack of control, the acceptance of risks and secondary effects as well as mislead motivation. Some of the greatest obstacles in the way of avoiding negative mining-related consequences are inadequate legal foundations, inadequate qualifications and a lack of environmental awareness and consciousness.
Crucial Requirements towards the Establishment of the Sustainability Principle in University Education
The Resource Universities bear a great responsibility with regard to working toward the elimination of existing deficits in avoiding, recognizing and remedying negative consequences of raw material processes. With the (ongoing) education of qualified employees and managers, and by setting a clear orientation toward responsible and sustainable raw material processes (this applies to both primary and secondary raw materials), the Resource Universities have the opportunity to remedy faults on a medium-term and long-term basis.
To fulfil this responsibility, the Resource Universities obligate themselves to include sustainability-relevant subject areas in the curriculum of study programmes on resource processes. The core topics are process understanding and modelling, technical and management solutions toward a responsible management of scarce natural resources, such as water, earth, air, soils, energy and materials, as well as the protection of nature, landscapes and the human health. These topics should integrate subjects such as Best Available Technologies (BAT), Best Practice, Life Cycle Assessment, key indicators or leading occupational health and safety and environmental protection standards, as well as established legal regulations for sustainable raw material processes. The interaction with the entire process chain and the environment needs to be considered, when examining individual raw material processes. Interventions on protected resources that are a result of the raw material processes have to be discussed in a transparent and individual manner. Isolated development of disciplines related to sustainability must be avoided.
The issue of sustainability is to be established as a principle of corporate management. Qualified employees and managers have to be sensitised toward responsible action. The polluter liability principle has to be applied for the remediation of negative consequences caused by raw material processes. It is considered necessary that knowledge should be propagated, provided on a global scale, harmonised and networked.