The guiding principle of sustainable development is that such development must meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development recognises the interdependence of environmental, social, and economic systems and promotes equality and justice through people empowerment and a sense of global citizenship.
A committee addressing sustainable development, the so-called ESG Committee, was launched by NUA in 2013 in order to assist the uranium industry in upholding its reputation as a safe and responsible industry. The committee was also established to assist NUA in promoting best practices with regard to Health, Environment and Radiation Safety and Security. The committee reviews, monitors, and advises NUA from a uranium industry-wide perspective. The ESG Committee evaluates procedures and guides NUA members to ensure that principles of sustainable development are incorporated into the policies that drive the performance of the industry.
The ESG Committee’s duties include the assessment and monitoring of all risks associated with health, environment, and radiation safety and security matters of the uranium industry; assistance with the development and implementation of internal compliance and control systems and procedures to manage risks; coordination of assessment and monitoring of the effectiveness of controls instituted; and the review and making of recommendations to the NUA in relation to risk management. Namibian uranium mining companies subscribe to the International Council on Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) interpretation of sustainable development for the mining and metals sector, namely that investments should be technically appropriate, environmentally sound, financially profitable and socially responsible. Best practice, i.e. setting standards of operation and practice that maintain international standing and reputation is applied as it is critical for any mining company to gain and maintain its “social license to operate” in the community. It is essential to integrate environmental, economic, and social aspects through all phases of mineral production from exploration to construction, operation and finally mine closure. The ESG Committee plays an important role in ensuring such best practise. In order to achieve its goals, the ESG Committee has also appointed four working groups, namely the Services Working Group, the Radiation Safety Working Group, the Water and Air Quality Working Group, and the Swakop River Farmer’s Working Group.
In 2021, the ESG Committee started work on the 2020/2021 SEMP report, and continued with the development of fact sheets. The Ministry of Mines and Energy was engaged in order to ensure the continuity of the Water and Air Quality Monitoring project, and to have a good understanding of the Mine Closure Planning Framework which is currently developed by this Ministry. The new management plans of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism for the coastal parks were analysed with special reference to the new zonations applied in these plans. On a regular basis, the ESG Committee and its Working Groups investigated risks and any potential issue which could negatively affect Sustainable Development.
In line with international trends, the ESG Committee explored potential changes to address environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, rather than continue to follow the classic SD approach. It has been recognised that regulators, policy makers and international investors place an increasing focus on ESG reporting, which determines sustainability by looking at the three broad ESG areas. Relevant reporting standards, such as the ones issued by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), were looked at. The process is ongoing.