Antofagasta’s Centinela mine in Chile is the company’s first to obtain the international Copper Mark. The Copper Mark program is voluntary and open to all industry members. The certification is a bonus for the miner as it forges a sustainable path forward at its mines. The Copper Mark conveys a copper producer’s commitment to meet industry sustainability standards throughout operating practices and is a signal to investors and other stakeholders that the company has a credible verification of those practices at copper production sites.
The General Manager of Centinela Carlo Espinoza said, “After a rigorous process, involving self-assessment and an independent audit, we are very proud to be the first mining operation in the company to obtain the Copper Mark, which certifies that our operating and other processes are carried out in accordance with the best sustainability practices in the industry.”
The certification can be applied for mines, smelters, and refineries as well. The Copper Mark is not a simple program to enter and requires that the mine in question meets the criteria for a sustainable copper project. It requires a steady flow of information on site-level, risk-management practices, and public reporting on the positive on-the-ground impact.
Ivan Arriagada, CEO of Antofagasta plc, commented: “The importance of obtaining this certification lies in Antofagasta’s commitment to modern and sustainable mining, which transparently incorporates the best practices for the global mining industry.”
The Copper Mark is a difficult compliance bar to pass, requiring compliance with 32 criteria spread over five main categories, including business and human rights, community, labour and working conditions, environment, and governance. Once the initial mark has been awarded, Copper Mark continues to follow up the initial certification with continuous review within the first year. After the first year, Copper Mark returns every three years to certify ongoing compliance with the criteria on the ground at the mine and throughout management.
While many certifications are less stringent than Copper Mark, they do not prove the sustainability and ESG importance of a project as comprehensively. Companies that obtain the certification for their mine, smelter, or refineries are able to use the mark in corporate literature, invoices, contracts, etc., as well as directly on the company’s copper products and packaging. This “seal of approval” clearly states to the buyer that the producer is meeting the industry sustainability standards in operating practices and is continuing with stringent compliance through Copper Mark.
Another mine owned by Antofagasta and Barrick Gold (50% each), Zaldivar should also obtain the Copper Mark next month in September 2021. Antofagasta aims to certify its other two mining operations known as Los Pelambres and Atucoya and has plans to begin the certification process with Copper Mark shortly, according to the company.
In a world that demands more commitment and stricter regulations for the mining industry as it moves toward a greener future, the Copper Mark could become an important industry standard. Companies may find themselves left out of ESG portfolios if they cannot meet the certification standards as well. Additionally, copper is an important metal for the global decarbonization efforts, and mining the critical metal will require cleaner and more efficient practices in the coming decade.