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London, April 2, 2013: The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) announces its hiring of London-based Matthew Wenban-Smith as Managing Director.  IRMA is a multi-stakeholder dialogue that is developing a global certification program for more responsible mining.

In accepting the position, Matthew Wenban-Smith said, “We all depend on the products of mining – but we need to make sure that our enjoyment of these benefits does not come at an unacceptable cost to people or the environment.” He added: “I am looking forward to joining IRMA’s team at this critical point in its development and to working with all its partners, supporters and stakeholders to make its vision of responsible mining a reality.”

IRMA is developing a set of best practice standards that will ensure high environmental and social performance at IRMA certified mining operations. Applying projects will be subject to independent third-party verification. IRMA envisions a world where the mining industry is respectful of the human rights and aspirations of affected communities; provide­s safe, healthy and respectful workplaces; avoids or minimizes harm to the environment; and leaves positive legacies.  More information about IRMA can be found at www.responsiblemining.net.

IRMA focuses on medium-to-large scale mines, but seeks to collaborate with other schemes forwarding more responsible practices at the smaller and artisanal scale. IRMA is governed by five key sectors with a stake in the environmental and social performance of mining, namely: 1) mining companies, 2) downstream users of mined products (businesses who purchase those products to manufacture their own products), 3) organizations representing communities affected by mining, 4) labor unions, and 5) environmental and human rights non-profit organizations.

Matthew Wenban-Smith, who has previously served as a consultant to IRMA, will formally start his new role as Managing Director today, April 2, 2013. He comes to IRMA as Director of the consulting firm OneWorldStandards Ltd, which he founded.  Matthew has worked on standards and certification programs in a number of sectors since 1994, when he was hired by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to set up its accreditation program. He has also served on the Technical Advisory Board of the Marine Stewardship Council. His expertise covers standards development, assurance, product traceability, ethical claims & labeling, business development and governance.  He has lived and worked in Mexico, Germany, Brazil, Guyana and the UK, and has worked on projects around the world.
Anisa Kamadoli Costa, Vice President for Global Sustainability at Tiffany & Co., who serves on IRMA’s Steering Committee stated, “We are pleased that Matthew will lead IRMA at this critical moment as it prepares for the pilot certification phase in 2014.  His expertise in globally-recognized standards will assure that IRMA benefits all stakeholders and brings a new level of consumer confidence to mining operations.” 

Fellow IRMA Steering Committee member Glen Mpufane, based in Geneva for IndustriALL, a global union federation representing 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors, offered his perspective, “Organized labor leaders are working for a new economic and social model that puts people first, based on democracy and social justice. It is exciting to bring on a new leader to IRMA who can help us realize that goal.”

Jon Samuel, of mining company Anglo American, also on IRMA’s Steering Committee, noted: “Matthew has worked with other certification programs that have successfully traveled the same paths currently in front of IRMA. He is therefore extremely well placed to help IRMA develop an effective approach that meets the expectations of the key stakeholder groups participating in IRMA.”

Payal Sampat of the Washington, DC-based NGO, Earthworks, who is also on IRMA’s Steering Committee, added, “We appreciate the experience Matthew brings to IRMA in ensuring the authentic engagement of both corporate and civil society stakeholders, to which IRMA has been committed since its founding.”

IRMA Steering Committee member Larson Bill of the Western Shoshone Defense Project in Nevada, USA, shared the following, “Indigenous communities around the globe face many threats to our lands, people and cultures. We welcome Matthew's leadership in this cooperative effort and are hopeful that IRMA will reduce these impacts in the mining sector.”

IRMA expects to pilot-test its standards program in early 2014 and will begin certifying mine sites in 2015.

IRMA’s current team includes Aimee Boulanger and Meredith Emmett, who will continue serving IRMA. Aimee will focus on testing and refining the content of the social and environmental standard. Meredith will continue to facilitate the cooperative leadership of the five diverse stakeholders represented in the IRMA process.