Another piece that just arrived. Kudos to those who wrote it but did not append their names.

The International Council on Mining and Metals took a further step towards sustainable mining and corporate accountability last year by introducing mandatory, independent assurance of sustainable development performance for its members.

According to its 2006 annual review, the pilot assurance procedure is designed to provide external assessment to its 15 members against the Sustainable Development Framework adopted by ICMM in 2005.

Members, which include BHP Billiton and Zinifex, are obliged to secure independent assurance that they have management systems to implement the 10 principles of the framework and to ensure their reporting accords with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

Company reports from now on will need to include performance against both the principles and the GRI.

The review said the independent assurance provision put mining and metals companies ahead of many other sectors in the corporate accountability stakes.

"Independent assurance is not only critical to the credibility of the framework, it is also proof that less than four years after the world's leading mining and metals companies endorsed the 10 principles, ICMM's member companies are prepared to both stand by these commitments and be openly and independently judged against them," it stated.

The majority of ICMM companies have already begun some form of third party assessment, with five reporting in accordance with GRI and nine providing some external assurance on their reports.

ICMM said its amended framework was having an increasing impact and beginning to influence governments as well as companies.

"India, for example, is planning to incorporate the framework into new national minerals legislation," the report said. "It recognises the need to protect its citizens and the environment, and to raise the game of its own companies to that of their global competitors."

The 10 principles of the ICMM Sustainable Development Framework are:

1) Implement and maintain ethical business practices and sound systems of corporate governance.
2) Integrate sustainable development considerations within the corporate decision-making process.
3) Uphold fundamental human rights and respect cultures, customs and values in dealings with employees and others who are affected by our activities.
4) Implement risk management strategies that are based on valid data and sound science.
5) Seek continual improvement of health and safety performance.
6) Seek continual improvement of environmental performance.
7) Contribute to conservation of biodiversity and integrated approaches to land use planning.
8) Facilitate and encourage responsible product design, use, reuse, recycling and disposal of our products.
9) Contribute to the social, economic and institutional development of host communities.
10) Implement effective and transparent engagement, communication and independently verified reporting arrangements with stakeholders.