Sustainable development is at the forefront of modern mining policy. Australia's resources sector has the capacity to lead the way as a stable, profitable and considerate industry. 


The Australian resources sector wants to grow, and for the benefit and prosperity of the Australian economy it needs to grow. But part of this growth must be a renewed focus on sustainability and social licence, to ensure that growth is in line with environmental best practice and community expectations. 


Globally, the mining industry faces escalating disruption from a variety of sources, including societal expectations, digital transformation, rising costs and changing commodity markets. If these disruptive sources remain unaddressed or are poorly managed, they will have a profound effect on the future of the industry. 


As the peak body for professionals, the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) is leading the conversation on sustainability through bringing together experts at two upcoming events: the Sustainable Development in the Minerals Industry Conference (SDIMI) and a Social Licence to Operate (SLTO) Forum.


AusIMM CEO Stephen Durkin said that SDIMI, to be held from the 27-28 May in Sydney, will give a platform for professionals to share their learnings and best practice in sustainability.


“If we want sustainable growth in the resources industry, we need to encourage transparent conversations about any environmental impacts, and how we offset and minimise them to safeguard the communities we work in, sector employment and economic growth,” Mr Durkin said.


“At our SDIMI conference, this will involve open discussions on the development of modern, innovative technology and the positive implications this will have on the future environmental sustainability of the sector.”


Presentations at SDIMI by key experts will discuss how the sector can create a new working paradigm for social licence and propose new approaches for improving global practice in sustainable development.


Dr Deborah Shields, a keynote speaker at SDIMI, said the discussion was one of vital importance.


“The conference theme of social license is both timely and critical,” Dr Shields said. “Stable, prosperous, healthy and equitable societies and economies require minerals, but mineral extraction is increasingly controversial.


“Delegates at SDIMI will have the opportunity to learn more about concepts such as minerals in the circular economy, supply chain management, and shared value creation, and how these are linked to corporate social responsibility and how they can support social licence to operate.”


According to the recent EY annual survey of extractive sector leaders, the number one risk facing the industry in 2019-20 is (Social) ‘Licence to Operate’ (SLTO).While some mining companies have developed internal SLTO strategies that deliver competitive advantage, a sometimes narrow and static focus means SLTO remains elusive and generally poorly understood, requiring more education and emphasis.


AusIMM believes in the need for this renewed focus, which has led to the inaugural Social Licence to Operate Forum being held in Melbourne in May for AusIMM members. 


The objective is to obtain advice from AusIMM professionals and to develop SLTO policy recommendations to contribute to the Institute’s ‘Trusted Voice’ initiative. The Forum and its recommendations will align to AusIMM’s vision, mission, values and charter, and deliver value for the AusIMM, the industry and the community.


“We need to accelerate our thinking on social licence when it comes to the resources industry if we are to stay competitive and relevant,” Mr Durkin said.


“This is an area that is of critical importance to our members and the industry at large.”


For more information on SDIMI visit