Adalberto Terrazas Soto
CAMIMEX Community Relations and Development Commission
View from the Top

Sharing Social Responsibility Best Practices

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 16:20

Q: What are the objectives of the Community Relations and Development Commission of Camimex?

A: The objective of this Commission is for every company to share social responsibility practices and for all of Camimex’s members to be certified. We started in 2008 with three companies having achieved the Socially Responsible Company certification, and today we have 24. We created a self-completion questionnaire and sent it to all affiliated companies. In this document there are four items that must be complied with in order to be certified: corporate ethics, community relations, quality of life within the company, and responsible environmental practices. Through these four categories companies were able to identify and understand what they needed to do in order to be certified. We were also able to align all community development, environmental and corporate ethics programs, and the reaction of the Camimex members has been very positive. The Community Relations and Development Commission has adopted Global Reporting Initiative practices. We are also working on defining the social baseline to create better social programs. There is a program called Stakeholder Mapping, which shows the communities surrounding mining sites and the risks they represent for investors. Camimex is looking to homogenize the approach of all companies in this sense, so that they can acquire the social license and demonstrate to the public the good work they do in the regions in which they operate.

Q: What is the link between mining operations and local communities and what is the best strategy for solving problems that can arise in this relationship?

A: In order to obtain land rights, companies must ensure transparency concerning the mining operations that will take place once they obtain possession of the land. The company has to clarify with the community representatives the challenges that will be faced, the methods that will be followed to overcome them, the water resources it plans to use, and the energy it will consume, as well as the general use of the land. The claim owner should also be clear about the remediation project that will take place in the area once the mineral deposit is depleted. If the remediation project is good, it might even be possible to leave the area in a better condition than before the mining operation began, for example by creating reforestation programs or building water canals to supply a larger number of people. Improvements may not only be environmental, but may also be in the form of improving housing conditions, schools, hospitals, and infrastructure in general. Post-mining remediation plans need to be proposed to the community at the beginning of the project, in order to be able to reach agreements with the community members that allow them to support and be involved in the mining project.

Q: What are the main community relations challenges that the Mexican mining industry faces today?

A: One of the main challenges is that companies do not always implement programs that suit the needs of the community and try to impose programs that have not emerged from social research done in that particular community. In these types of situations communities are not receptive to the program and therefore problems can arise that can put the whole operation in danger. Communities are looking to develop programs that better satisfy their needs and contribute to their development. Today companies are contributing to the wellbeing of local communities in every aspect through education, health, environmental, and infrastructure programs, which are making a positive impact on communities with mining operations nearby.

Q: How can a mine guarantee leaving a positive legacy in the local community once its operations come to an end?

A: If community members are trained in different fields or in mining specifically, when the production stage ends, they will be able to work in different mining districts with the knowledge they acquired, either as specialized technicians, machinery operators or with other skills they have acquired. Once exploitation activities come to an end, the common practice is to continue with restoration, remediation, and preservation programs that can last up to three years after the mine is closed. Another positive legacy is the infrastructure that is left behind. Most temporary occupation contracts establish that all buildings that are used during the mining operation must be left at the disposal of the community. One such example is the prefabricated structures that serve as offices or storage units, which can later be used as classrooms or even health clinics.