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Seminar 9

“Future of Planet Earth” Participant Biography

Paris, France | June 3–5, 2008

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David Richards

David Richards’ background is in economic geology, and he has spent almost all his professional life in the private sector of the mining industry. Jobs in Cornwall (UK), Saudi Arabia, and Portugal gave him firsthand experience of bringing practical solutions to the theoretical world of geological concepts, and also provided examples of how mining projects can affect the communities and regions where they occur.

Through part-time research work on environmental geochemistry, he moved into environmental science work, still in the mining industry. Over a period of fifteen years, he worked for the corporate Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) Department of Rio Tinto, a large global mining company. His main areas of specialisation were environmental policy development, notably biodiversity and acid rock drainage, corporate assurance through strategic HSE risk review, and external engagement with civil society.

In this last area of work, he was part of a significant commitment by some companies in the mining industry, including Rio Tinto, to confront the issues at the heart of the lack of trust of the industry by many sectors of society. This work began in 2000 with discussions on land access conflicts and the interaction of mining with areas protected for conservation. Richards was involved in these and in the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) project, an independent multi-stakeholder process that ran from 2000 to 2002, and which made many challenges to the mining industry to improve its social and environmental performance. These challenges were (mostly) accepted by a new organisation called the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) formed in 2002. Richards was the inaugural Chair of the ICMM Task Force on Biodiversity.

At the WSSD in 2002, ICMM and IUCN – the World Conservation Union – announced a dialogue, a commitment to working together. Richards led the ICMM contribution to this work until 2004, including negotiating the Terms of Reference for the dialogue, publishing the ICMM position statement on Mining and Protected Areas, and leading the ICMM delegation to the World Parks Congress in 2003.

Subsequently Richards worked on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the Business and Biodiversity Offset Program, the Post Mining Alliance on mining legacy, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Ecosystems Focus Area.

He left Rio Tinto at the end of 2007 and continues to work at the interface between business and civil society as an independent adviser. He is married with two young children, lives in Wales, and enjoys family activities, vegetable gardening, and woodwork.