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Revolutionizing resource management: Cornwall’s UNRMS initiative

Cornwall, United Kingdom, is pioneering a groundbreaking approach to resource management for critical raw materials projects. By adopting the United Nations Resource Management System (UNRMS), the region is revolutionizing its approach to resource extraction, processing, and sustainability. Developed at UNECE in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, UNRMS aims to harmonize economic development, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility.

Today marks the release of the inaugural UNRMS case study, conducted in collaboration with regional government, academic institutions, and other stakeholders. This study will inform intergovernmental discussions at the upcoming UNECE Resource Management Week 2024, scheduled for 22-26 April in Geneva.

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Cornwall’s rich mining heritage, dating back thousands of years with the operation of tin and copper mines, has long been integral to its economy and identity. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006, the region boasts a wealth of metal, mineral, and renewable energy resources crucial for supporting the transition to Net Zero and achieving Paris Agreement targets. Critical raw materials such as lithium, essential for electric vehicle battery production and other green technologies, alongside tin and tungsten, hold particular significance.

With over 100 companies comprising the mining supply chain and related sectors, the case study underscores the strategic importance of responsible resource management for Cornwall’s economic revitalization, environmental stewardship, and climate action.

Stakeholder engagement and collaboration lie at the heart of UNRMS implementation in Cornwall, emphasizing dialogue, cooperation, and shared decision-making among regional government, businesses, communities, and other key stakeholders. Such an approach fosters inclusivity and sustainability in resource management outcomes.

While Cornwall’s extractive industries have historically caused environmental harm, efforts to adopt more sustainable practices are underway with the support of UNRMS. Among the study’s recommendations is the implementation of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), leveraging the UNECE Protocol on SEA to mitigate environmental impacts.

Furthermore, the study highlights the adoption of new and low-carbon approaches in resource exploration, extraction, and processing, driving technological innovation and efficiency while promoting job creation and economic growth. It also explores avenues to reduce the environmental footprint of mineral extraction through methods like bioleaching and selective mining, as well as tapping into untapped geothermal and renewable energy resources.

Frances Wall, Professor of Applied Mineralogy at Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter, emphasizes UNRMS’s role as a tool for stakeholder engagement, circular economy principles, collaboration, and monitoring resource management performance.

Eva Marquis, Met4Tech Research Fellow at Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter, underscores the adaptability of UNRMS, crucial for tailoring resource management practices to Cornwall’s unique characteristics and needs.

Applying UNRMS principles can also safeguard Cornwall’s natural and cultural heritage, contributing to sustainable development in the tourism sector, a major driver of the region’s economy.

Director of Sustainable Energy at UNECE, Dario Liguti, highlights Cornwall’s application of UNRMS as a model for other regions, countries, and industries seeking to enhance their resource management practices in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals. UNRMS’s flexibility, adaptability, stakeholder engagement, and innovation offer a replicable framework for promoting economic development, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility in resource projects worldwide.

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