Bradford Cooke
Founder & CEO
Endeavour Silver
/
Expert Contributor

Mining Leads the Way in Corporate Social Integrity

By Bradford Cooke | Mon, 05/24/2021 - 09:02

The mining industry often gets a bad rap. Certain politicians, environmentalists and media tend to portray mining as an uncaring or “dirty” industry. But this perception is not only outdated, it is misleading. The mining sector actually leads the way for other industries to follow in embracing corporate social integrity.

Since inception in 2003, we at Endeavour Silver have strived to create social, environmental and economic benefits for all our stakeholders. Corporate social integrity is not just a sideline, it is core to how we conduct our business. We find, build and operate quality silver mines in a sustainable way to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives.

Our company just released its 2020 sustainability report, Endeavour’s eighth consecutive year of sustainability reporting under the Global Reporting Initiative. This year, we also linked our ESG disclosures to the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board.

Our theme for 2020 is “Unity in Adversity,” not only because of how positively we responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also how our people managed to turn around our mines from under-performing to outperforming, improving safety, production, and profitability at each mine.

2020 was a transformational year for Endeavour Silver. Our people came together to resolve new challenges, capture new opportunities and create a more sustainable future for the company. We did not just survive a difficult year, we thrived thanks to our ability to unite in the face of adversity.

We all know that when you feel good about yourself, your colleagues and company, you feel less stress and perform better. Last year, Endeavour launched our “ICARE” values program, so that all employees can identify personally with our corporate values. ICARE stands for Integrity, Care, Attitude, Reliability and Excellence. The feedback from our people to this program was very positive.

Mining is a risky business. The safety and well-being of our employees and contractors are our top priority at Endeavour. In 2020, we delivered a 25 percent reduction in our Reportable Injury Rate, thanks largely to the buy-in of our employees to our new “Te Cuido” safety culture program. Te Cuido is naturally related to ICARE so we plan to merge these two programs in the future.

Mining is truly Mexican. Even though we are a company based in Canada, Endeavour’s workforce remained 99 percent Mexican in 2020 but we became more diversified: 1,954 employees and contractors worked for the company last year, 13 percent of whom were women, up from 11 percent in 2019. Our employee absentee rate was 1.8 percent, down from 2.6 percent the previous year.

Mining is a good citizen. Not including our employees’ time, last year we invested over $200,000 in community initiatives, 142 Mexican students benefited from scholarships provided by Endeavour, and we provided over 2,200 COVID test kits and personal protective equipment to keep people safe during the pandemic. Mothers in particular were very appreciative of our donation of 534 smart tablets to local students to support online learning.

Mining respects the environment. Our corporate reputation and the ecological health of our host communities depend on it. We closely monitor and report on our energy usage and green house gas emissions. Mineral extraction is energy intensive. Electricity, which we buy from the CFE power grid, is our biggest carbon footprint, followed by diesel emissions.

Last year, we invested $1.5 million in environmental protection, including the planting of 44,000 trees through our reforestation initiative and we reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent.

In order to reduce our carbon footprint even further, we’ve started shifting to lower impact electric equipment. Our next core asset, Terronera, will be Endeavour’s first mine to be built from scratch, so we’re incorporating greener technologies and environmental best practices in all of our plans. We’ve committed to LNG and/or solar power generation with enough capacity to help provide power to the local communities when needed. We also plan to utilize dry stack filtered tailings storage, which will enable us to recycle almost all of the water we use in the plant.

Last but not least, the mining industry creates high quality jobs, trains people with career skills, and generates economic activity that has a 7x multiplier effect in society due to the supply chain. We also pay some of the highest taxes (52 percent total tax burden) of any industry worldwide. Mining is one of very few industries whose worksites are almost exclusively located in poor, rural parts of Mexico. Our jobs tend to be some of the highest paying and most highly skilled work opportunities in Mexico.

In 2020, Endeavour generated $120 million of direct economic activity from our mining operations, and our supply chain was 96 percent sourced in Mexico. After losing money for three years, we finally started generating profits late last year.

Profitability is key to generating stakeholder returns and financing the long-term exploration, development and mine capital investments needed to sustain mining operations. No profits, no company. When our company performs well financially, we can offer more training, better job security and higher compensation to employees and contractors. In some Mexican communities, this is especially important because mining is one of the few economic opportunities available.

The mining industry is under appreciated by the general public and it is our responsibility to tell people about all the good things that we do. Mining is a core activity that supports modern civilization. Metals are used pervasively throughout society, and you cannot have a green economy without certain metals.  You cannot have electric vehicles, solar power or 5G telephonics without copper, silver, lithium, cobalt and nickel.

Miners are tremendously creative and caring people. I think it comes from the fact that mother nature did not put ore bodies conveniently near people. We had to go into frontier areas and take tremendous risks and costs to explore for, build and operate new mines. Because there was no infrastructure in frontier areas, we had to provide everything to support these mines, such as roads, towns, power, water, schools and hospitals. 

This is the essence of corporate social integrity. We do what we have to do to build our business in a sustainable way for all our stakeholders. That is why the mining sector leads the way for other industries to follow. If you can’t grow it, you have to mine it.

Photo by:   Bradford Cooke