Ethical dimensions of sustainable development and their relevance to Organisations: A case study of Coltan Mining Industry Author Institution Course title Instructor Date Introduction Sustainability and its use in enhancement of a sustainable development has become a major concern in the world economy. Many international documents including Agenda 21 on ethics highlights how governments and corporate bodies may achieve sustainable development. One of the strategies suggested by the document is ethical responsibility of business which ensures that organisations pursue development while at the same time protecting the environment.
Due to emerging concepts of global democracy, civil society, citizenship and governance in their global perspective; ethics has become an important means which involves individual and organisational commitment to protect the environment adequately. This leads to sustainability which is a positive value in development. Ethics involves respecting the interests of all and protecting the interests of the global environment so as to promote a sustainable development.
This paper proposes that practices result in sustainable development in the economy through the maintenance and enhancement of a sustainable environment. It will identify various ethical dimensions of sustainable development; the various ethical issues that influence sustainable development. In order to achieve this, the paper will use a case study of coltan mining industry. Coltan is a dull metallic ore from which the mineral components of tantalum and niobium are extracted. Tantalum is use to manufacture tantalum capacitors which are used in some electronic products.
Australia is the leading coltan mining country of the world. I have chosen Coltan mining as the case study industry because it is one of the activities which affect the environment. The environment is the main component of the global economy whose sustainability has a direct impact on the sustainability of development. Therefore, it is important to use a case study industry whose main activities affect the environment. Coltan mining is one of such industries. Coltan mining process is an environmentally hazardous practice, while Coltan itself is a toxic contaminant.
Therefore, Coltan mining industry exhibits ethical issues which impact on development sustainability and how such ethical issues may be addressed in order to enhance sustainability and sustainable development. Ethical issues related in the Coltan mining industry African Coltan mining industry is tantamount to human rights violations. Apart from having a negative impact on the environment, Coltan mining in Africa has also resulted in human rights violations. Melcher et al. (2008) suggest that Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s leading producer of “blood coltan”; Coltan mined in a conflict zone.
Fighting, wars and crime are experienced in Congo due to mining of several minerals including Coltan. The mining of the ore has led to violation of human rights, an issue which has distorted social order in the country. Apart from conflicts, other human rights ethical concerns associated with coltan mining include systematic exploitation of workers. According to the UN, it choosing one’s employer and working conditions is a human right. However, this is not the case in conflict Coltan mining areas such as Congo. In these regions, some indigenous residents are forcibly engaged in mining activities.
For instance, in Colombia and Puinawai residents claim that children are forced to work at Coltan mines while they are being guarded with a gunpoint by militia groups. Coltan mining in conflict areas is therefore associated with poor working conditions for labourers. In most cases, it is illegally practiced by illicit groups such as drug cartels. The unregulated nature of coltan mining provides a wide avenue for exploitation of the local residents of the mining areas and other labourers who work forcibly in the coltan mines.
This violation of human rights may be considered as an ethical issue as it goes against the principles of ethical behaviour which requires individuals and organisations to care for the interests of others while pursuing their objectives. One of the ethical principles applicable business ethics is respect and care for community life. The forceful use of labourers in coal mines, conflicts, fights and other practices that may result in violations of human rights are basically against the principle of respect and care for community life.
It is a true indication of ethical concern which may impact negatively in the sustainable development of the economies involved. For instance, Democratic republic of Congo is one of the richest countries with a lot of mineral ores but its economy is not actually sustainable. Most of the incomes of the country are often committed to fight against militia groups, criminals and other illegal groups which are in control of the country’s Coltan mines. This is a clear indication that ethical behaviour of organisations and governments contribute to sustainable development.
Another ethical concern that is evident in coal mining industry is environmental concern. This type of concern is broad; there are several environmental concerns that are associated with coal mining. These issues are evident in several mining experiences of coltan miners and mining companies. The coltan mining activity in itself is hazardous to the environment, and cause negative impacts on the environment which is meant to support various economic activities. This makes the environment not to become sustainable for effective economic activities, hence inhibits sustainable economic development in the affected economies.
This mineral ore, just like any other metal is a toxic contaminant which may contaminate the air and cause air pollution. The mining process may also lead to the contamination of water supply due to its toxic nature. As a result, the ore may be considered as being environmentally unfriendly. Coal mining organisation proceed with coal mining with little efforts to minimize its environmental impacts because they are more concerned with their own profitability objectives rather than the interests of their stakeholders including members of the community within which it operates.
This organisational goal and objective is against ethical principles of business and does not only result in unsustainable general economy but also impacts negatively on the performance of the responsible organisations in the long run. Mining of coal also leads to the destruction of the environment through destruction of stream beds and forest covers in the surrounding environment. These mining activities are not sustainable, yet the coltan mining industries in developing countries are mainly unregulated.
Therefore, the unsustainable activities are carried out without regard to the impacts of the activities on the environment. This results in environmental destruction and negative impacts on sustainable development. Actually, there is no sustainable development in situations of environmentally unsustainable activities. On the contrary, an ethical behaviour which takes care of the environment should have been initiated in coltan mining areas so as to increase the effectiveness of the sustainability of the environment.
A sustainable environment where workers experience good working conditions and members of the society live with good quality of life and welfare is important for sustainable development. Diaz-Struck and Poliszu (2012) suggest that the deep forest covers of national parks and reserves in Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia are the main mining areas for illegal coltan miners. The affected national parks and reserves include Kahuzi-Biega National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Puinawai National Reserve in Colombia. These illicit coltan mining activities often affect tourism activities in such national parks and reserves.
Apart from making the environment unsustainable for a sustainable development, the coltan mining therefore affects other sectors of the economy (such as tourism) which could have boosted development. The mining techniques used for coltan mining in developing countries are the methods used for gold mining in 1800s (United Nations (2001). This involves hard and dangerous panning for ores in large craters in stream beds. Even with these hard and dangerous tasks, an average worker often produces less than a kilogram of coltan every day.
This is an indication of unsustainable economic activity which leads to detrimental environmental effects at low cost. Low returns against massive environmental problems may be associated with a low level of sustainable development. A sustainable development is enhanced by an economic condition whose benefits are more than the costs incurred. In the case of unethical coltan mining practices where the environment is destructed for a small amount of returns, development cannot be sustainable as much as we can also observe that the environment in the same case is not sustainable.
Sustainable development occurs in a sustainable environment and a sustainable environment is only possible if organizations, government institutions and other economic agents take responsibility of their economic activities and engage in ethical practices.
References list Diaz-Struck, E. and Poliszuk, J. (2012). Venezuela emerges as new source of ‘conflict minerals’ iWatch News (the Center for Public Integrity) 4 March 2012. Accessed on April 22, 2013 from http://www. iwatchnews. org/2012/03/04/8288/venezuela-emerges-new-source-conflict-minerals.
Melcher, F. , Sitnikova, M. Graupner, T. , Martin, N. , Oberthur, T. Henjes-Kunst, F. Gabler, E. , Gerdes, A. , Bratz, H. Davis, D. , and Stijn Dewaele (2008). “Fingerprinting of conflict minerals: columbite-tantalite (“coltan”) ores”, SGA News, 23(1), 7-13. Nest, M. (2011) Coltan. Polity Press: Cambridge, UK. United Nations (2001). Security Council condemns illegal exploitation of Democratic Republic of Congo’s natural resources. Press release, UN. 3 May 2001. Accessed on April 22, 2012 from http://www. un. org/News/Press/docs/2001/sc7057. doc. htm.