The coronavirus pandemic has affected the global economy, leaving multiple industries to suffer, including mining. Workers have been sent home due to COVID-19, which halted operations and made communities vulnerable, especially those that rely on mining for their livelihood. While mining activities create an impact on economic development, it also produces adverse social and environmental side effects.
The mining industry creates programs in corporate social responsibility (CSR) to address this.
“Historically, the mining industry has taken a ‘devil may care’ attitude to the impacts of its operations,” writes Dr. Louise Obara, senior lecturer at De Monfort University with a Ph.D. in Human Rights & CSR in the UK companies. “Mining companies tend to focus on community initiatives as their impact is felt greatest at the local level.”
Companies need to understand the local and indigenous context, especially the culture and knowledge base of the native community. Here are 8 ethical practice principles on how to interact with indigenous people.
1. Ensure Inclusivity During The Earliest Stage
During the engagement with local communities, company representatives should be sensitive to those who get left out in the decision-making. While it is vital to acknowledge the wisdom of elders and other indigenous leaders, women and young people equally make up the community’s demographic, whose roles are as important as well.
2. Seek Help To Interpret Culturally Sensitive Issues
Conflicts may exist within regional governments and local communities. It is essential to understand the historical grievances each sector may have against each other, and most especially against extractive industries. Background knowledge of their ethnic composition and interpersonal relations in the area can also help.
3. Establish Trust By Clearly Understanding Their Rights
In the context of indigenous people’s mining land, it is pervasive to experience pushback from the community. By recognizing their rights and accepting that all of their concerns are valid, it is possible to build positive relationships between mining companies and indigenous communities through respect, meaningful engagement, and mutual benefit.
4. Commit To Open And Transparent Communication
When the company understands both the positive and negative impacts of mining activities, getting buy-in from all stakeholders involved becomes easier. Communicating with local communities should be approached by acknowledging them as project owners and using traditional knowledge to inform the business strategy’s design and implementation.
5. Agree On Terms And Conditions
The most critical aspect of managing the community impact of mining is the contractor’s relationship and behavior towards locals. Some companies take advantage of using terminology that is common in the mining industry but may not yet have a meaningful translation in the local language. A good project starts with a transparent process of engaging other stakeholders like non-government organizations, past corporate partners, and industry experts.
6. Support Through Capacity-Building
Usually, the mining company deploys its corporate foundation for philanthropic activities, but it can be more harmful to the community when done awry. If the company is genuinely committed to mitigating the risk factors involved in its operations, implementing projects such as improving access to clean water, educational scholarships, and supplementary livelihood training is beneficial.
7. Uphold The UN Sustainable Development Goals
Members of the local population oppose mining and other exploration activities due to its degradation of natural resources, unfair distribution of profits, and insufficient contributions to local governments. A practical way to address critics is to observe the United Nations’ decisions on responsible mining and its contribution to the Goals.
8. Favor Long Term Growth Instead Of Short Term Gains
Mining companies need to cooperate with sustainability experts and development organizations to address the harmful socio-economic impacts of the industry. While adverse effects are immediately noticeable once a project has started, the result of rapid economic and social change can range from erosion of cultural values to alcoholism and drug use.
Plans for improving essential services and delivery at the onset can lead to better social and health outcomes in the long run.
The location and living conditions of indigenous people and remote communities make it essential to isolate them during a disease outbreak. This pandemic has required responsible mining companies to make workforce decisions even though it can put pressure on their operations.
While local communities bear the brunt of putting in more work, the significance of protecting indigenous culture has provided to be more valuable as we overcome COVID-19.