Check out the full panel video here.
Communication strategies have become a pressing issue for the mining industry as Article 2 of the Mexican Constitution as well as Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Communities require mining companies to receive approval from local communities in rural areas in order to carry out projects. As such, many industry misconceptions need to be addressed while the prolonged efforts to limit the impact of the industry on the environment and nearby communities must be better communicated.
Industry experts gathered to discuss how to handle these issues during the “Reputation: Responsible mining and effective communication strategies” panel at the Mexico Business Mining Forum 2022. Christopher Avila Mier, Deputy Director of Government and Institutional relations for Baluarte Minero asked industry experts about the importance of addressing misconceptions with transparency with communities and the government. Panelists also shared their thoughts regarding the best strategies to communicate the benefits of the industry, the missing key for the general public to see the industry’s responsibility, main misconceptions and ways the sector can improve its public image.
Angie Robson, VP Corporate Affairs and Social Responsibility at Torex Gold, pointed out the company´s impact on Guerrero communities since they have become the country’s second biggest gold producer with 99 percent of its workforce coming from Mexico. For their Media Luna project, Torex has provided “Agreements with each of the communities surrounding our projects, each have their own elected committees to help define agreements according to their own needs.” Torex invested US$5 million for the construction of churches, schools, healthcare facilities and water facilities for the benefit of these communities after they found what the communities needed instead of providing benefits based on what the company thought would be best. This communication made the difference, explained Robson.
Luiz Camargo, Country Manager forMinera Cuzcatlán, said its operations ´s in Oaxaca and Guerrero are some of the most complex areas because of the large number of municipalities. One project can impact 3 or 4 municipalities. The best way to manage these relations is to then be transparent, empathetic with the community and truly enter these municipalities to understand their needs, explained Camargo.
Camargo also recognized the progress the industry has made in the last decades. Particularly, the way in which the industry was able to help by providing funds to cover health efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico´s rural areas. A common misconception is that mining companies do more harm to communities than the many benefits they provide them. For instance, regarding water contamination, Minera Cuzcatlán avoids contamination through efforts provided by a treatment plant before returning water to local rivers. Camargo emphasizes that by following three main pillars: transparency, communication and stake of holders, particularly in the communities, the industry can continue evolving in the right direction.
José Jabalera, General Director of Miner Development at theMinistry of Economy, honed in on the origin of these misconceptions by mentioning the recognition of past negative impacts the industry has had on local communities as an important factor to move past them. Mining companies must now “Hire local people, local people know traditions, culture…you are a new neighbor, you need to be informed on past mining projects and local needs,” said Jabalera. He also believes surveys and hard data are needed to measure the true positive impact community efforts are having on local individuals.
Jabalera also shared his thoughts on the “disappearance” of the mining fund. “The mining fund did not disappear. The mining fund as we know it moved to other ministers or programs.” Jabalera said the mining fund is being used to improving schools and the health ministry. “We are working with the education and public health ministers to put the mining communities first.”
Alfredo Phillips, Vice President Corporate Affairs & ESG and Director for Argonaut Gold, spoke of a recent doctoral thesis realized by the University of Sonora in which the issue of logic behind what companies do with communities was analyzed. “CSR usually focuses on what the companies are interested in, real focus should be on empowering the communities,” Phillips said. Phillips noted that successful programs are those that are focused on understanding the community requirements instead of pushing forward company beliefs.