Are mining companies in sync with the complexities and evolving dynamics of mining communities, or is there a lack of understanding and appreciation, on how the communities have evolved over time.
Traditionally Mining communities have been marginalised and treated as labour reserve for the sector, however in recent years these communities have developed into structured permanent communities. While most mining companies have, attempted to adopt and embrace philanthropic initiatives – through the establishment of Corporate Social Investments units with their organisations, there is a lack of appreciation of the CSI, because companies have a uniform/blanket approach to CSI. When one browses through most companies’ websites, there is a sense that CSI is treated as one of the boxes that need to be ticked. The section is only filled with pictures of one or two outreach or donations made by the company to a community, diluting the companies initiative to a mere marketing gimmick. There is a sense that most mining companies seem to be directing or committing fewer human resources to units that deal with CSI.
The CSI landscape has drastically changed over the past years, from philanthropic initiatives to a more impact-based approach, with more companies tracking the effectiveness of their CSI work. However, Mining companies are missing the opportunity to champion and create sustainable community projects, especially since service delivery is poor in the areas which they operate. The Chamber of Mines SA has admitted that there is room for improvement on tangible & sustainable community development initiatives. “We agree that the results-based approach is an important aspiration. It would be premature to assert that this goal has been fully achieved,” said the Chamber.
Mining companies cannot implement CSI alone or in isolation, a more broader approach and conversation is required between all stakeholders, for example if a mining company builds a school or clinic, government needs to support such an initiative with ensuring that the human resource and other requirements are provided. On the other hand, community engagement plays an important role in ensuring that the CSI gets a buy in and support from the community and they are made to understand their role as the custodians of those projects. Because in most cases when communities are not involved in such discussions, there is a high risk that during protests they might vandalise such projects and not protect them, since there is no sense of ownership.
There is no doubt that much has been done by mining companies in mining communities, however a broader stakeholder engagement drive is needed to understand and articulate all stakeholder’s voices.