Mining for Development

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(3 votes)

Last week around 500 delegates from 69 countries gathered in Sydney for the 2013 International Mining for Development Conference.

Aligning with the theme ‘Maximising Benefits’, international mining experts looked at a variety of issues that affect many resource-rich developing nations, and how to overcome them.

One event that caught our eye here at Minetalk was a discussion on mining communities and how mining companies can help build sustainable local enterprise and employment.

As we know in Australia, this is not an easy thing to do and it must be even harder to achieve in developing nations.

Last Tuesday, three experts took to the mic to explore the challenges. One of the three panellists was Jonathan Samuel, Head of Social Performance at Anglo American, one of the world’s largest diversified mining and natural resource groups.

He explained that companies such as his have an obligation to three different groups.

“One is clearly the government which has given us the permission to exploit the resources and they of course only do that for some sort of financial benefit to the community,” Mr Samuel said.

“We have a responsibility to the communities and often for those particular communities it is probably their one chance for a major development.”

Thirdly, Mr Samuel said his company also has a responsibility to its investors: “Unless we meet the aspirations of the communities we operate in, we won’t be able to run our business in a way our investors would want us to.”

So, as you can see, it’s quite the balancing act.

Another interesting event on the two-day conference program was focused on gender in mining. The session largely looked at developing countries, discussing how the industry can have different impacts on men and women.

“Gender is a critical issue for the mining industry. If a country is to be sustainable and equitable, it needs to support the participation of women. And often it’s not there,” said panellist Dr Helen Szoke, CEO of Oxfam Australia.

“The impacts of mining are not gender neutral. Women do not obtain the same benefits as men from mining. Women are often the homemaker, finding food and water for their family. If the land they use to farm is extracted through mining and the village is moved on, they lose their ability to be able to feed the family and may also have to walk further for their water supply.”

Oxfam has created a gender impact assessment that gives a voice to women and helps to understand how women are impacted by mining.

The conference was hosted by the International Mining for Development Centre (IM4DC), an AusAID-funded partnership between The University of Western Australia and The University of Queensland.

For full session summaries and more information, visit:
http://im4dc.org/m4d-conference/conference-2013/

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