Mineral security essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

11 October 2022

A new paper led by researchers from The University of Queensland is calling for a public conversation about why minerals are not explicitly referenced in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The team has also coined the term ‘mineral security’ to help integrate minerals into the SDG framework.

The SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, and while natural resources such as energy, water, air, forests and wildlife feature prominently, the words mineral, mining and miner are not mentioned.

Lead author Professor Daniel Franks from UQ's Sustainable Minerals Institute said one reason may be the dominant perception of minerals, mining and miners as villains in the planet’s twin crises of environmental sustainability and global poverty.

“This is understandable – the role that the mining of minerals has played in, for example, the colonisation of nations and the creation of environmental problems is very defining and much more visible than the role minerals have played in enabling our shelter, sustenance, transport, energy and communication,” he said.

Professor Franks and his co-authors Julia Keenan and Degol Hailu suggest this narrow framing has implications for global development.

“It is little known that in fact metals make up a minority of mineral production by volume and value.

“The majority of what we mine as a society are local minerals, mined by local people, for local development, surpassing the production of large-scale multi-national mining companies.

“Most of the minerals and materials that are mined for human use are done so barely noticed by society – whether it be glass, roof tiles, bridges or roads, the public is largely unaware of the minerals that are their main ingredients.

 Daniel Franks
Workers stack clay bricks in a kiln in preparation for firing, Mozambique, credit: Daniel Franks

Professor Franks believes that new ways of describing the totality of minerals contribution and the links to poverty reduction and human development are needed.

“In our article we introduce three concepts, ‘development minerals’, ‘mineral security’ and ‘mineral poverty’ to take a human-centred perspective to mineral supply.

“We define mineral security to exist when all people have sufficient and affordable access to the minerals necessary for human development.

“Our hope is that these new concepts will help foster new understandings about development and new pathways for sustainability transitions and ultimately result in minerals being a more central feature of any revised formulation of the SDGs,” he said.

Mineral security essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is published in Nature Sustainability.

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