News Article

Modern Mining Tunes Into Social Responsibility

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 16:59

The mining industry needs to work alongside the government and local communities, communicating effectively the benefits the sector’s operations bring to the country and particularly to the mining communities, panelists debating “Corporate Social Responsibility in Today’s Mining Operations” said at Mexico Mining Forum 2017 on Wednesday in Mexico City.

“Whenever we start a mining project, expectations are very high. Usually, local communities are afraid of the environmental damage projects will generate, so we need to listen their concerns, be transparent with locals and build the project with them,” said Irma Potes, Subdirector of Community Development at Grupo México, at the Hotel Sheraton María Isabel.

Potes was joined on the panel by moderator Armando Ortega, Vice President Latin America of New Gold, and industry experts Christopher Ávila, Deputy Director of Government Affairs at Grupo Bal, Michael Harvey, Director of Corporate Affairs and Security at Goldcorp, Ricardo López, Director General of the Mining Trust Fund at SEDATU and Claudia Ibarra, Director General of Mining Regulation at the Ministry of Economy.

Government participation in dealings with local communities is key to achieve successful negotiations, suggested Harvey. “Sometimes, when we are dealing with communities, groups that have a particular political agenda and that are not interested in the general well-being of the community become involved. To balance this situation, you have to bring in the federal authorities.”

A particular problem the mining industry faces in Mexico is related to the excessive expectations that companies face regarding their involvement with communities and what they need to provide in terms of infrastructure, said Ortega. His concern was addressed by López, who said that taxes paid by mining companies contribute to a federal fund that aims to generate sustainable development in mining regions. “The objective is to generate a development plan for every community, region and mining zone that contributes to the generation of infrastructure that will ensure the survival and functioning of mining communities in the long run.”

Even though mining companies are complying with their legal obligations, a pressing issue is related to the right of indigenous communities to public consultations on mining projects. Ortega said that companies fear public consultations will make the mining sector a hostage in negotiations. However, Ibarra said the government is working toward establishing the necessary legal certainty for both companies and local communities before beginning with public consultations.

While hesitations regarding the impact of a project will always exist, it is important to be transparent and communicate openly with communities. “There is a cultural bias against mining based on how it used to be done. We have to present the facts and always communicate,” Harvey said.

A lack of communication can have a dire impact, often becoming the source of a crisis. “Whenever there is a crisis, the most important thing to do is to face the community, not being afraid to listen to everything they have to say and to apologize for any wrongdoing,” said Potes.

Companies have realized that they can only thrive with help of their suppliers and local communities, added Ávila. “Company speeches are changing. We are becoming more involved with human rights and environmental topics.”

The changes in Mexico’s mining sector are helping to shape the modern industry. “In Mexico, there is a modern mining sector that has departed from its old version,” said López. “Modern mining takes into consideration its investors and local communities. Modern mining asks for the responsible and inclusive use of the resources generated by extractive production.”