Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, of which one was Not upheld and the other Upheld.
A regional press ad for Dalradian Gold, a gold mine construction project, on 6 February 2020, included the heading “A new industry for Northern Ireland” and the subheading “Our commitment to environmental responsibility & economic development”. Below that text included “There are also substantial quantities of silver and copper, metals which will be critical to enable the building of a renewable energy industry”. Next to that, under the subheading “This project in numbers”, the ad included “100% carbon neutral from day one. The mine will not contribute to climate change”.
1. The complainant, a member of a local anti-mining group acting in a personal capacity, challenged whether the claim “100% carbon neutral from day one. The mine will not contribute to climate change” was misleading and could be substantiated across the whole lifecycle of the project.
2. The complainant, who understood that Dalradian Gold had no control over where the silver and copper from the project would be used, challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that they would be used by the renewable energy industry.
1. Dalradian Gold Ltd said in November 2017 they had submitted a planning application to permit the building of an underground mine and associated infrastructure in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. At the time of writing the application for planning permission now rested with the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure (DfI).
Dalradian Gold stated, as part of the planning process, its commitment to fulfil its carbon neutral objective. They said they had secured the services of an expert agency for advice on how the carbon footprint for the development proposals would be assessed and how any impact would then be offset. As part of the ongoing process, they said greenhouse gas (GHG) assessments would be undertaken on an annual basis should the project be agreed and these would provide a constant and consistent review of their commitment which would be placed into the public arena at the appropriate time.
Dalradian Gold said the assessments would be completed by senior members of a third party. Assessment would be undertaken in accordance with relevant guidance so as to ensure completeness, accuracy and a high level of robustness. It would represent a lifecycle GHG assessment in that it would estimate emissions over the 30-year period scheduled for the development, comprised of three years of construction, 25 years of operation and two years of decommissioning – the whole lifecycle of the project. They said that carbon neutrality would apply to the project’s direct and indirect emissions, which would cover Scopes One, Two and Three of emissions as defined in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Dalradian Gold said that for any GHG assessment they would initially explore all opportunities to mitigate GHG emissions on-site in accordance with the GHG Management Hierarchy. That would be done in accordance with the recommendation from the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment’s (IEMA) Special Report; GHG Management & Reporting (2010). The GHG Management Hierarchy sought the prioritisation of measures to ‘avoid’ then ‘reduce’ emissions at source, before identifying opportunities to ‘substitute’ and ‘compensate’ for residual or unavoidable emissions through, for example, the procurement of off-site renewable energy and high quality carbon offsets. Dalradian Gold believed the ad’s audience would be aware that offsetting carbon emissions was performed post-emission. They did not believe readers would take the phrasing of the claim in a literal way, such that they would expect carbon emissions would be offset immediately at the point of emission. Dalradian Gold said that such an interpretation would be unrealistic and contrary to established practices.
Dalradian Gold said they were committed to pursuing opportunities for the on-site reduction of GHG emissions. Their planning application included an electrically-powered surface conveyor to move rock from the mine to the surface which would result in a significant reduction in air pollution and carbon emissions by reducing surface vehicle movements. Dalradian Gold said that to implement the carbon offsetting they would engage a leading provider of carbon neutral services including high quality carbon credits and renewable energy market instruments. In due course, the GHG assessment methodology and results would be shared with a chosen provider to enable a robust and credible carbon offset programme for residual (or unavoidable) GHG emissions across the project lifecycle to be developed and costed out. Dalradian Gold said they endorsed expectations that companies that claim carbon neutrality should offset their carbon emissions in a robust and verifiable manner, and that they intended to be fully compliant in that respect. They said they had indicated to DfI that they would be willing to commit to a binding legal obligation to do so by way of a Planning Agreement, which was clearly stated in the Addendum to their Environmental Statement. Dalradian Gold said the chosen provider of carbon neutral services would support in the identification of a carbon emission reduction programme approach for the lifetime operations of the project, including: 100% renewable electricity from UK renewable energy projects using market instruments such as Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO) and high quality carbon credits for residual direct and other indirect emissions such as Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) credits. They would look to utilise a blend of carbon offset packages, including those in both developing countries and those in the UK which accord with recognised standards such as the Woodland Carbon Code and Peatland Code.
As part of their quality assurance process, annual GHG assessments undertaken for the project would be subject to third-party validation. That meant the amount of REGOs and carbon credits required would be scrutinised by an independent organisation. They believed that would provide a further level of validation and therefore a greater level of robustness. PAS2060 Specification for the Demonstration of Carbon Neutrality provided a framework for annual public reporting and associated declarations regarding carbon neutral status. That Publicly Available Specification (PAS) had been developed by the British Standards Institution (BSI) to specify requirements to be met by any entity which sought to demonstrate carbon neutrality through the quantification, reduction and offsetting of GHG emissions. Dalradian Gold stressed their commitment to the use of PAS2060 through construction, operation and decommissioning, which therefore provided an additional level of assurance and transparency on carbon neutrality.
2. Dalradian Gold said that the ad did not suggest, either expressly or impliedly, that all polymetallic materials mined would be used exclusively by the renewable energy industry in Northern Ireland or in the renewable energy industry as a whole. They believed the ad merely suggested that such metal would be critical in the building of such industry and they explained the necessity of copper and silver within the renewable energy industry.
Dalradian Gold believed it was clear that the ad’s reference to a ‘new industry’ was a reference to the mining industry and the potential approval of that project. Dalradian Gold also believed the ad was clear through the sentence “Post approval, the mine will boost Northern Ireland’s economy and build prosperity for families and communities west of the Bann”, that it was the mine which would benefit the Northern Irish economy, rather than by implying that substantial quantities of silver and copper would be used to enable the building of a renewable energy industry in Northern Ireland. Dalradian Gold also believed the use of the word “also” in the claim “There are also substantial quantities of silver and copper, metals which will be critical to enable the building of a renewable energy industry” suggested that the silver and copper that was critical to the building of a renewable energy industry was in addition to the main intended message, which was the importance of the proposed mine itself.
1. Not upheld
The ad stated that “You can view our planning application at planningni.gov.uk” and “It describes how we intend to build an underground mine committed to environmental responsibility”. The ASA therefore considered it was clear that the ad referred to a proposed project. In that context, we considered the claim “100% carbon neutral from day one. The mine will not contribute to climate change”, would be understood as a reference to the mine’s carbon neutral credentials. We considered the references to “from day one” and “the mine will not contribute to climate change” would be understood as references to the lifespan of the mine and full lifecycle of emissions, taking into account direct and indirect emissions, meaning that emissions from the very outset would be taken account of in the measures taken to ensure the mine was carbon neutral.
We understood the complainant was concerned that the ad was misleading because Dalradian Gold had an existing operation in the area and because it implied that the mine would produce zero carbon emissions that had not already been offset. However, we considered the ad clearly referred to a future proposed mine, where its full lifecycle would begin at the point its construction commenced. We also considered the audience would understand that in the immediate term, day-to-day operations from the mine would produce carbon, but that over the mine’s lifecycle, a method was in place to offset those emissions. We understood that the established practice for carbon neutrality in those circumstances involved achieving zero net emissions associated with the project through calculating post-emission the direct and indirect emissions, reducing emissions and offsetting residual emissions. Given the project planning application had yet to receive approval at the time of publication, we considered they would need to demonstrate a credible plan for how that would be put into practice in future.
We understood that Dalradian Gold’s planning proposal included a statement which explained their willingness to commit to a legally binding obligation to operate the mine in a carbon neutral manner. The statement explained how that commitment extended across all stages of the mine’s lifecycle (including construction, operation and closure) and to take into account both direct and indirect emissions. It also established a commitment to enter into contract with a third party to ensure the delivery of carbon neutral status would be legally enforceable and independently verified. The established process to achieve best-practice carbon neutrality firstly required calculating carbon emissions. We understood Dalradian Gold intended to apply the Greenhouse Gas Protocol developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. We considered the calculation methodology behind that scheme was sound and robust, and we understood it could be applied to both the direct and indirect emissions associated with the mine.
The next step in achieving best-practice carbon neutrality meant reducing carbon emissions. We considered the IEMA framework provided an established method which could be applied to that process. This encompassed avoiding, reducing, substituting and compensating for emissions. We understood that this framework could also encompass both direct and indirect emissions from the project. We noted that Dalradian Gold had already identified an opportunity to reduce their carbon emissions by substituting from fossil fuel to electrically powered technology, which was included in their planning application. Carbon neutrality further required calculating residual emissions, once emission reductions had been taken into account, and purchasing carbon credits to offset those residual emissions. That process should be done in a robust and verifiable manner. We understood Dalradian Gold planned to adhere to the framework set out by the British Standards Institution’s PAS2060 Specification for the Demonstration of Carbon Neutrality. Not only did that standard cover the previous two steps (carbon emission calculation and mitigation) but also set a standard for using certified carbon offsetting schemes. We understood Dalradian Gold intended to use the Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Standard credits which we considered compatible with a robust and verifiable offsetting system. Because we considered Dalradian Gold had demonstrated a credible plan for how the project would achieve carbon neutrality through its lifecycle, including direct and indirect emissions, in accordance with recognised national and international frameworks that governed calculations of carbon emissions and how to off-set them, we concluded the ad was not likely to mislead.
On that point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Advertisements must not falsely imply that the advertiser is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession. Advertisements must make clear their commercial intent, if that is not obvious from the context.
Advertisements must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. For example, they must not offer specific advice on, diagnosis of or treatment for such conditions unless that advice, diagnosis or treatment is conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional (see rule 11.9). That does not prevent advertising for spectacles, contact lenses or hearing aids.
Medicinal or medical claims and indications may be made for a medicinal product that is licensed by the MHRA, the VMD or under the auspices of the EMA, or for a CE-marked medical device. A medicinal claim is a claim that a product or its constituent(s) can be used with a view to making a medical diagnosis or can treat or prevent disease, including an injury, ailment or adverse condition, whether of body or mind, in human beings.
Secondary medicinal claims made for cosmetic products as defined in the appropriate European legislation must be backed by evidence. These are limited to any preventative action of the product and may not include claims to treat disease. (Environmental claims), but did not find it in breach.
We considered the claim “There are also substantial quantities of silver and copper, metals which will be critical to enable the building of a renewable energy industry” would be understood as an indication that a benefit of the proposed mine would be its extraction of a significant quantity of silver and copper, which would then be used in the renewable energy industry in Northern Ireland. However, Dalradian Gold did not provide us with evidence to prove that any quantity of silver and copper extracted from the proposed mine would be used in the renewable energy industry. In the absence of such evidence, we concluded the ad was misleading.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Advertisements must not falsely imply that the advertiser is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession. Advertisements must make clear their commercial intent, if that is not obvious from the context. (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Dalradian Gold Ltd not to state or imply that materials extracted from the proposed mine would be used in the renewable energy industry, without adequate substantiation.