The activities of mining companies often affect the communities in which they operate, and these companies have an obligation to deal with negative repercussions while they are busy with operations, and after they cease operations. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an integral part of credible mining procedures.
Mining affects local communities in many ways – socially, environmentally and economically. When mines are constructed local communities benefit from increased employment opportunities. Some locals along with people from further afield that are relocated staff these mines. Mine workers need facilities to live in reasonable comfort and basic services like sanitation, water, schools, housing and hospitals have to be made available to both staff and locals. Although locals benefit from mines being established in many ways, they also suffer the repercussions of their environment being negatively affected with pollution and deforestation. Mining firms reap the benefits of mineral rich land and can often avail of a relatively cheap workforce and not all of these companies remember that locals should be given sustainable compensation and improved living conditions in return. It is the social responsibility of the mining companies to see to this, and this is where CSR comes in.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the voluntary actions undertaken by mining companies to reduce the negative effects of mining initiatives, and to improve the lives of locals, the local economy and the environment. It is often erroneously viewed as part of a company’s PR strategy but is becoming increasingly recognised as efforts to create sustainable benefits for all parties. The World Bank has defined CSR as, ‘the commitment of businesses to contribute to sustainable economic development by working with employees, their families, the local community and society at large to improve their lives in ways that are good for business and for development.’ More and more mining companies are taking an active role in implementing CSR policies. These actions go beyond contracts and legal obligations and are paving the way to increased CSR regulations around the world.
The benefits vary from one initiative to another, and are usually most successful when the needs of local communities are considered. Some of the most important projects include pipelines for electricity, schools, health care centres and roads. It is complicated to assess the impact of CSR initiatives on an international, or even on a national level – the local benefits are a lot easier to gauge. An example of a successful initiative is the community health facilitators that were trained in Ghana as part of a Gold Fields Ltd. initiative. These facilitators provided health services to nearly 10,000 people over the course of two years and referred well over 10,000 people to hospitals during this period. In another initiative in Ghana several hectares of oil palm were planted by Golden Star Resources which became a major source of income for locals. The Puquio Norte mine in Bolivia constructed a pipeline with additional capacity that gave rural communities electricity for the first time. Placer Dome Inc. supported a community health care centre in Venezuela. This kind of corporate social responsibility from mining companies is becoming increasingly common around the world.