Conference SRMining 2011 in Santiago de Chile, 19-21 October 2011
Securing local community acceptance is one of the keys to a successful mining project. Historically, mining companies and governments assumed that most communities would welcome the jobs and economic activity that large projects generate, but experience around the world demonstrates this to no longer be the case. Environmental concerns, conflicts over land and water use, low levels of trust between companies, regulators and general public stakeholders, heightened awareness of the rights of indigenous communities, increased scrutiny by civil society and international organisations, and greater connectedness between the opponents of mining all mean that companies can no longer afford to take for granted their ‘social licence to operate’.
Many mining companies have responded to these challenges by embracing the language of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development and by re-engineering internal management systems in an effort to improve social performance ‘on the ground’. However, this is still very much work-in-progress. Much remains to be done to build understanding within the industry about how mining can impact —both positively and negatively— on communities, and to develop the organisational capacity required to engage effectively with communities and to deliver on organisational policy commitments.
EL TENIENTE (Chile) - The largest underground mine (copper) in the world
It is against this background that Gecamin, Chile, and Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining of the Sustainable Minerals Institute of the University of Queensland, Australia, convened the First International Seminar on Social Responsibility - SRMINING 2011 (http://www.srmining.com/).
The conference was attended by nearly 500 participants from 27 countries. As can be expected from the location, attendance was dominated by Latin-American countries in which (corporate) social responsibility (CSR) issues figure high on the agenda of mining companies. Asian and African stakeholders as well as government representatives (regulators) in general were virtually absent.
Fully reviewed papers on a wide range of themes around SR were presented:
• SR standards, corporate governance and management systems
• Human rights in the context of mining
• Fair labour and operating practices
• Transparent engagement with communities and other stakeholders
• Community empowerment and capacity building
• The interface between community and environmental issues
• Social investments and community development
• Dealing with community conflicts and grievances
• Indigenous peoples, Indigenous rights and mining
• Gender and mining
• Artisanal and small-scale mining
• Supply chain management
• Measuring, monitoring and reporting social performance
• Building social capacity within the mining sector.
UVSQ-REEDS (W.E. Falck) participated in this conference with a paper entitled 'STAKEHOLDER DRIVEN ENABLEMENT THROUGH EARTH-OBSERVATION INFORMATION – THE PROJECT EO-MINERS'. The paper described the first results obtained from this European Commission FP7 project (http://www.eo-miners.eu/).
As a summary statement it may be noted that the awareness of CSRs and related governance issues is high among most actors, but that there are no 'one size fits all' recommendations for company behaviour and actions. The company-stakeholder relations are too much dominated by the cultural context and previous experience of the local communities concerned. Therefore, an open deliberative process for decision-finding needs to be installed.