08.02.2011 -

Biosphere Reserves and Earth Resources: a Sustainable Development Challenge?

Minas Gerais, Brazil

UNESCO’s Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences is pleased to convene an expert meeting on Tuesday 15 February 2011 to discuss the role of earth resource extraction (mining and the removal of oil and gas, referred to here simply as ‘mining’) and biosphere reserves.

The expert working group will provide a forum for government, industry, researchers and natural resource managers to share their experience of mining and biosphere reserves. The desired outcomes of the meeting are to identify the most significant issues involved with mining in or near biosphere reserves and to begin the process of establishing guidelines for mining in biosphere reserves.

This meeting was organized just ahead of the 39th session of the International Geosciences Programme (IGCP) Scientific Board and the 17th meeting of the International Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves in order to consider the launching of a new initiative at the intersection of ecology and earth sciences and to develop the connection between the Earth Resources theme of the IGCP and the Biosphere Reserve model of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. The meeting comes as recognition that landscape-level planning applied to the biosphere reserve zonation concept requires the consideration of mining activities.

The expert working group will begin with the perspective that geological resources are an important element of development and that biosphere reserves are much more than just protected areas. Accordingly, biosphere reserves can be established as sites for land/seascape-level sustainable development and therefore should incorporate best practices of technology, application and human partnerships.
The meeting will develop the theme of earth resources across three sessions. Session I: Earth Resources and Sustainability will start with two keynote presentations featuring a general sustainability framework for the mining industry and a specific partnership with the private sector at a biosphere reserve in Canada. These will be followed by a panel discussion on the role of earth resource extraction in sustainable development.

Similarly, Session II: Earth Resources and Biosphere Reserves, will feature two keynote presentations that address distinct types of mining in biosphere reserves in Central Africa and Brazil; small-scale, artisanal mining and large-scale, coordinated mining, respectively. Again, this will be followed by a panel discussion to identify the main issues to be addressed regarding mining in biosphere reserves.

Finally, Session III: The Next Steps, will provide an opportunity for the experts in attendance to make recommendations on what actions are required for biosphere reserves faced with earth resource extraction. The conclusions and recommendations made during this session will be summarized in a report that will be made available to participants and interested parties. We hope that this may be the beginning of a larger initiative on this important topic which maximises IGCP and MAB Programme cooperation.   

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