Community engagement in the extractive industry: another big point to focus on
Manuel Nopeia, Group A
The fourth day of the summer school was as interesting as the other previous days. It started with two outstanding presentations which led us to understand relevant aspects when it comes to sustainable community development. I won’t replicate the profitable discussion and lessons we were able to experience during the lectures given by Dr. Muthuri and Prof. Poortinga.
On our fourth day of the Summer School, we tried to compile all the discussion that we had in the previous days, moving forward to the final presentation. During our discussion, a particular aspect sparked my interest, which is the influence of community engagement in mineral extraction. When it comes to public acceptance of the mineral extraction industry, dissemination of information and strengthening of the level of understanding is likely to be the main point taken into account by the mining companies and other stakeholders. I am disputing the fact that it is important to look at the level of understanding of the use of minerals and thus the need for mineral extraction, but it seems that it is not enough. If there is something to be added to that, it should be the "community engagement in the mining project" during all the project stages.
In many developing countries where more than 50% of the population is living below the poverty line, egotistic and hedonic values (well discussed by Dr. Perlavicuite) are prevalent. People are worried about immediate improvement of their lives quality. When people hear about any mining project, a single question colonizes their minds: “what are the positive impacts in my life in terms of poverty alleviation in short term?”. If this question is not responded it is likely that the information can be ignored. People may understand the positive aspects of mining and still don’t change their way of thinking, especially if they can’t link these aspects with their personal and familiar objective of overcoming poverty. As a consequence of that, there are examples of countries, especially African countries, where the government and other stakeholders, choose to ignore the level of understanding of people, and carry on the project, with the believe that the people minds or their level of support may change (increase) with the development of the project. This assumption most of the time doesn’t work and leads to conflicts post-mine implementation. It is important to always link the information about the importance of mineral resources and mineral extraction with the direct engagement of people with immediate effect. One way of doing that would be getting people involved in all the stages of the mining activity, by employing them even with small jobs.
I had an opportunity to talk with a driver hired by a coal company in Mozambique since the prospecting and exploration stage of the mine. He was very happy with the implementation of the mining project and proud for taking part in the project since the beginning. In fact, he showed me how the project has changed his life. The conversation was just centered in “with the implementation of Moatize coal mine I could, I was able, my family” - first person.
Here again, I would like to recall the example that I already introduced in the second day blog. In 2015, a local community guessed to be mostly artisanal miners, attacked a tantalum mine in central Mozambique and destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. The main reason which driven such a sad attitude was the lack of jobs opportunity for people. The people economy in that area was reliant on illegal artisanal mining. When the company got a license to explore tantalum in the area, people couldn’t access the area anymore. In the meantime, the company didn’t provide job opportunities for the local community or give other options for those people who were dependent on artisanal mining. The company just ignored them, so did the government, which led to tension between the company/government and the local people. It is important to engage people in all stages of the mining project in addition to informing them about the importance of mineral resources.
Halleluya Ekandjo, Group B
We started the day with a very informative lecture by Dr. Judy Muthuri who gave basic definitions of who community can be and what engagement means. Her presentation also helped us identify some processes that we missed from our previous group discussions.
During the week, the group managed to identify different stakeholders and processes necessary in facilitating effective community engagement. Being in a group with participants from different parts of the world really helped us understand how engagement processes differ in different countries. Interestingly, having Mira from Finland who experienced best of both worlds (community and industry) helped the team get a good idea on how communities feel when directly affected.
The main task for the day was putting together the presentation that shows the road map to a successful community engagement process. The challenge was summarizing the great attempts we have discussed into a short and simple presentation.
5S (SORT, SET, SHINE, STANDARDIZE and SUSTAIN) is a well-known workplace organization method that helps to achieve workplace efficiency and productivity. Do I think this method can work in community engagement? Absolutely.
It is almost end of the week, and we are wondering if we have the answers to the questions we needed to answer, well Friday will tell.
Out of the box
Sarah Cavan, Workshop C
Its day 4 in the circular economy group. Before we got back to work we had a couple of thought provoking talks by Judy Muthuri on community development and the role of business and Wouter Poortinga on efforts to move to low or no waste systems. We also had the chance to share ideas between the different workshop groups which was a great opportunity to get out of our "circular economy box" and draw in new ideas and perspectives.
Value for who?
The first talk raised some critical questions. While we are starting to see a shift in industry from CSR (corporate social responsibility) as philanthropy to CSR to something that is more grounded in investment and business solutions for community development. Dominantly however the power still lies with the mining companies and often we have a transactional or donor-recipient dynamic. But how can we move the story forward? What are the conditions required for community development innovations that a co-created through strong community involvement and decision making. Often these projects are framed through the “business case for doing good”, but how might we move beyond that narrative? Lastly who gets to define value, something for us to consider in our team as we prepare our pitch for Friday, aimed at mining companies to make the case the circular economy presents a business opportunity!
The problem with plastic
The second session looked into the various levers at work to reduce waste and their effectiveness in delivering change. As we saw small changes can have big effects. Take the 5 pence charge for single use plastic bags which reduced consumption by up to 85% in some areas. Consumer behaviour tells us a loss based incentive is more effective than a gain in creating behaviour change, something else to bear in mind as we shape our findings into a narrative to convey the vision for business for a better world. Another interesting takeaway is the halo effect. A small change, such as the removal of single use plastic bag, makes us consider challenge other areas of consumption in our daily lives. We need to also start framing this problems as opportunities, take the social enterprise plastic bank which is turning plastic waste into an economic opportunity for marginalised communities.
Circular economy chaos
As we have been slowly covering the walls with ideas, sketches, process flows, stakeholder analysis and a healthy scattering of post it notes but a story is slowly emerging... One of the highlights has been the diversity of perspectives within our group which highlight the complexity of the challenge at hand but also real opportunity for mining companies and society at large! As we face growing planetary and social constraints, we have to rethink how we produce and consume our resources. Through our discussions we have come to the consensus that the mine of the future must position itself as the solution to resourcing future generations by evolving from simply a miner, to a materials company, one that can innovate and collaborate across the value chain turning "trash to treasure”. One point that keeps coming up is: where are the people in circular economy? This is especially interesting at a mine level as we move towards increased automation. Often the economic benefits such as job creation, are important in obtaining social licence and even contract negotiation at a national level. How might we resign human capital around the mines of the future? Might we see more mines giving an ownership stake to communities, the establishment of a revolving investment fund for the community?
Lastly as we started to design our presentation we reflected on the importance of moving the story forward beyond the business case, especially as we planned to pitch to a mining company.... We decided to get creative! To simulate a collaborative consultation with decision making power for community, government, academia and other businesses along the supply chain we plan to facilitate a conversation at the end where we invite representatives of the different groups to comment on the kinds of collaborations and approaches they would like to co-create with mining companies to leverage opportunities in the circular economy across the value chain and into the stakeholder ecosystem.
Engaging the public and building trust
Luke Viljoen, Workshop D
As the week draws to a close the participants of workshop D continue to tackle with the complexities of the extractive supply chain. The highlight of the day involved a 30-minute session on the lawn where students mingled with those from other groups to bounce ideas off fresh minds. What quickly became apparent is the common themes that surfaced from all workshops. Most significantly, there was a general agreement that the public does not fully understand the need for earth resources creating a disconnect between extraction and its ultimate end uses.
It is becoming obvious that to foster change, there first needs to be a concerted effort to educate and inform the public in extractive related topics. Only from there can we hope to make progress in public acceptance, more effective community engagement, the adoption of a circular economy, or tackle ethical issues in resource extraction.
Once a baseline of understanding has been established, we can then move to building trust between different stakeholders to improve collaboration as we move towards a greener and more responsible future.