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Mining is for future generations

World Coal,

Graça Machel of Mozambique has reminded the mining industry that it should think beyond the mine and beyond this generation.

There must be a more strategic dialogue between mining companies and society, governments, investors and communities that support mines, she told the audience during the Sustainable Development program, co-hosted with Mining Indaba on 12 February 2015 in Cape Town.

“Think differently and you will act differently: it is no longer business as usual. Use the mine to build local expertise and to contribute to national development for generations”, she said.

A women and children’s rights activist, former education secretary and wife of the late Nelson Mandela, Machel emphasised the need for change working towards all members of the community having representation and capacity to converse with industry through democratic leadership; ensuring the mining industry has an understanding of land as a community’s heritage and the role of community funds.

Her strongest please was to use the “brainpower, energy and expertise” of women in mining – as workers but also strategists, financial experts and investors. Mining needs to draw on the valuable contribution of women and all parts of society, because it is good business, and “it’s the democratic way”.

Machel’s opening keynote set the scene for two panels offering rich discussion. Tom Albanese, CEO of the Indian miner Vedanta pointed out that engagement is much stringer today, yet conflict is on the rise. He and others on the panel – harnessing the potential of mining – saw that trend reflecting higher expectations and better global connection through social media.

Dr Rev Opuni-Frimpong of Ghan, echoed by Archbishop Chama representing Central Africa and Zambia, argues for better listening and simpler communications between mining, governments, communities and especially the media who form the image of mining in the public mind. Newmont’s Johan Ferreira emphasised the need for long term planning with improved listening and understanding from the very beginning of the mine lifecycle, while Anita George, of the Energy and Extractive Industries practice, World Bank Group, signalled access to electricity, local job creation, worker and community health, water management, and gender equality as five key areas to focus on as we look to Africa in 2030.

A second panel on building trust considered the trust deficit faced by mining, viewed through the eyes of social researchers and practitioners such as Ven Pillay of AngloGold Ashanti. Today, she said, environment and engagement with our host societies is core business, not the aspiration of activists. Rio Tinto’s Janina Gawler stressed that companies will ultimately be judged for their actions, regardless of underlying good intentions and John Capel from the Bench Marks Foundation highlighted the inevitable implications that arise from shortcuts and lack of understanding between companies and communities. Referencing the Edelman Trust Barometer, Edelman’s Tod Donhauser spoke to how reputation is built on what a company has done in the past, while earning trust depends on what will come in the future, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)’s Kieran Moffat presented the trust model, illustrating the role that procedural and distributional fairness; and governance capacity play towards achieving trust and thus acceptance.

The Sustainable Development program highlighted the clear need for understanding and collaboration. But how can a company ensure that it listens, engages and manages risks that it faces everyday while acting responsibly and ensuring strategic growth?

Three senior executives joined ICMM President Anthony Hodge earlier this week for this conversation. A common theme that emerged was the challenge of maintaining stability through the cycle ups and downs the industry continues to experience. Alan Davies, Chief Executive of Rio Tinto’s Diamonds and Minerals group stressed safety as fundamental to a company’s risks management approach. Lonmin Chief Executive Ben Magara recommended cutting-edge protocols and a clear understanding of communities to enable efficient and decisive risk mitigation; to become an established and inviting choice for investors. David Noko, Executive Vice President, Sustainability of AngloGold Ashanti brought the area of technology and innovation to the discussion and the potential of how the industry can position the resources as alternative sources.

Adapted from a press release by Emma McAleavey.

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