Latest Publications


The number and use of sustainability certification schemes (schemes1) are rapidly increasing, but doubt still persists about their real contributions. This research report aims to explore the impacts of sustainability certification schemes on the ground by undertaking two exploratory case studies based on qualitative information. The aim of the case studies is not to undertake a comparative analysis of the performance of the case studies but to identify impacts of two selected certification schemes, considering participants’ points of view. Also, analysis is conducted to assess whether different design characteristics of schemes lead to better outcomes. This report represents the third stage of an applied research project looking into the effectiveness of sustainability certification schemes and standards in the minerals industry and the potential role these initiatives can play to improve standards for responsible mining.

Impact evaluation studies on sustainability certification schemes are important instruments not only to add to the growing body of knowledge on the impacts of such schemes, but to address current questions about the effectiveness of such initiatives in delivering positive outcomes. Although there is a consensus among different stakeholders, including standard-setting bodies, governments and civil society representatives, about the importance and need of impact evaluation studies on sustainability standard systems, at the moment substantial knowledge and evidence gaps still persist, especially in the mineral and mining sectors.

This report aims to fill these gaps by exploring participants’ perceptions regarding the impacts of two selected sustainability certification schemes in mining – the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC) and the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). The analysis presented in this report is based only on information obtained from a qualitative research approach and provided by participants interviewed during the two case studies.


Agreements form the basis of an ongoing relationship between mining companies and native title parties around a range of issues. The management of agreements through structures and processes established for implementation is referred to as agreement governance. This report identifies features of the governance arrangements established by the Gulf Communities Agreement (GCA). It draws lessons about how these have influenced the achievement of mutually desired outcomes and impacted on long-term sustainability of relationships.

The GCA of 1997 establishes land use and benefit sharing arrangements in the lower Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland, Australia between Century Zinc Mine, the Queensland Government and three native title groups (Waanyi, Mingginda and Gkuthaarn-Kukatj – the latter considering themselves one People with shared responsibility for looking after their land and saltwater Country although having two sets of clan ancestors). This involvement of multiple native title groups is one distinctive feature of the GCA. As well, it was the first agreement negotiated with native title claimants in advance of a determination of the relevant native title claims; and it included the Queensland Government as a party, and had a regional and community scope of benefits.

The signatories to the GCA exhibited considerable goodwill and high hopes that the agreement would ensure mining benefitted the whole lower Gulf region, facilitate opportunities for economic participation and self-determination for the native title groups (NTGs) and local Aboriginal communities, and leverage government initiatives to advance the socio-economic status of the region.

Through successive owners, the GCA facilitated mining for 16 years and annual compensation payments to NTGs for 20 years. Other opportunities realised through the GCA and its governance arrangements include significant outcomes in the areas of employment and training, expansion of the Indigenous land estate in the region and operation of a number of viable Indigenous businesses including a multi-million dollar pastoral enterprise. However, the wisdom of hindsight is often informed by examining challenges confronted as much as by celebrating achievements.


Regional planning approaches to mining infrastructure aim to reduce the conflict associated with mining operations and existing land uses, such as urban areas and biodiversity conservation, as well as the cumulative impacts that occur offsite. In this paper, we describe a method for conducting Geographical Information System (GIS) least-cost path and least-cost corridor analysis for linear mining infrastructure, such as roads. Least-cost path analysis identifies the optimal pathways between two locations as a function of the cost of traveling through different land use/cover types. In a case study from South-East Sulawesi, Indonesia, we identify potential linear networks for road infrastructure connecting mines, smelters, and ports. The method used interview data from government officials to characterise their orientation (perceived importance and positive/negative attitude) toward the social and environmental factors associated with mining infrastructure. A cost-surface was constructed by integrating spatial layers representing the social and environmental factors to identify areas that should be avoided and areas that were compatible with linear infrastructure using the least-cost path analysis. We compared infrastructure scenario outputs from local and national government officials by the degree of spatial overlap and found broad spatial agreement for infrastructure corridors. We conclude by discussing this approach in relation to the wider social-ecological and mine planning literature and how quantitative approaches can reduce the conflict associated with infrastructure planning.


Century Mine, in the lower Gulf of Carpentaria region of far north-west Queensland, ceased zinc production in late 2015 after 16 years of operation. This makes it one of the most significant planned mine closures in Queensland, and indeed Australia, in decades. It is also an important milestone with regard to the landmark Gulf Communities Agreement (GCA) that has governed relations between the traditional owners of the region and the mine owners since 1997.

This paper provides a brief account of the history of the GCA and the outcomes it has delivered. It also draws out lessons for other projects in Australia and overseas that have local-level agreements with Indigenous Peoples, or will be required or expected to develop these in the future.

The paper is the outcome of a collaboration between MMG Century management and CSRM staff who were involved in conducting a 15-year review of the GCA in 2013.The paper also draws on the earlier five- and ten-year reviews, as well as other studies undertaken by CSRM and other researchers (including Blowes and Trigger’s comprehensive account of the negotiation of the GCA, as seen from the perspective of the native title parties1). In addition, valuable historical details and insights were obtained from a roundtable in November 2014 hosted by CSRM and MMG Century, which was attended by eleven people who had played a prominent role in negotiating or implementing the GCA at various stages. The roundtable represented a mix of company, government and community perspectives.


This report represents the second stage of an applied research project looking into the effectiveness of certification schemes in the minerals industry and the potential role sustainability certification schemes can play to improve standards for responsible mining.

This report identified that participants interviewed have varied expectations and ideas about the drivers for participation in certification schemes, and also how different design characteristics influence the effectiveness of sustainability certification schemes in mining. There was also a range of views on how these differences influence outcomes on the ground in terms of ultimate development or conservation impact. Participants provided different insights and recommendations regarding nine different main topics: Stakeholder Participation; Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) mechanisms; Interoperability; Transparency; Assurance; Standards; Sanctions for Non-Compliance; Local Development; and Capacity Building.

The content of this report will be used during the following stages of this research project (interviews and fieldwork) as a base to further explore how different design characteristics leads to better outcomes and to provide recommendations to improve the practice.

The research is being undertaken by the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) at The University of Queensland and funded by The Tiffany & Co. Foundation through a grant to the University of Queensland in America.