Mining has a very poor media image, largely prompted by often untrue or exaggerated examples of supposed bad practice by axe-to-grind sometimes less scrupulous environmental NGOs and the invariable depiction of mining companies as the bad guys in many Hollywood movies – particularly Westerns. The media has an inbuilt predilection for only publishing news of inevitable occasional (actually very rare) environmental breaches and to totally ignore the good that many, indeed most, mining companies do for the communities in which they operate as part of their social contract. It was not ever thus, but today’s miners are a very different breed, but still could be said to be suffering from the sins of the past in terms of perception.
Mining thus has a huge amount of ground to make up in perhaps better disseminating knowledge of the huge amount of positive work being undertaken in education, housing, health and safety and wellbeing in the often extremely remote areas of the world in which they operate.
Go to a presentation by virtually any modern-day mining company operating in the less developed parts of the world and it will highlight what is being done in this respect – building schools, hospitals, decent housing and implementing sustainability programmes to be in place when the deposit is worked out – and, of course, providing decently paid employment, in areas where frequently there was absolutely nothing but subsistence living. Mining companies working in West Africa, for example, have played an extremely important role in the fight against the Ebola virus.
The major mining companies are at the forefront of this modern day sustainable mining process and its allied social contract, but even juniors nowadays are following suit. There is the recognition that it is vital that mining is seen as a giving industry – not only a taking one. While this may not be an entirely altruistic process it is a very real one in today’s industry. Without these kinds of commitments a miner’s licence to operate would be vulnerable and thus such commitment is a significant factor for investors looking to the future. And for the countries in which the companies operate this can bring huge advances for remote communities where government has not had the wherewithal to develop physical and social infrastructure.
But some miners will go even further and world No. 2 gold miner, Newmont, is a prime example. It has just announced a three-year agreement with Project C.U.R.E to deliver at least US$8 million in medical supplies – as well as life-saving training for health care providers – for developing countries in which it operates, including Ghana, Indonesia, Peru and Suriname. Newmont has already had an eleven year association with the Project and so far has already contributed a total of $1.2 million to the Project’s global health care efforts in addition to its already significant expenditure on social commitments to the communities located around its own mining projects.
Project C.U.R.E. is the largest provider of donated medical supplies and equipment to developing countries around the world and the new agreement with Newmont represents very important continuing support, both monetary and in terms of volunteer work, for it. The agreement calls for Newmont to contribute $200,000/year for the next three years while the two organizations will also exchange health care knowledge, experience and contacts in the countries where both operate. Newmont employees will continue to volunteer to help Project C.U.R.E. gather and pack medical supplies.
On the signing of the latest agreement, Project C.U.R.E.’s President and CEO, Dr. Douglas Jackson commented “This partnership has really been a full integration of both of our organizations. The goal is to create infrastructure improvement, so that the whole system gets better. We want the employees at Newmont, the stakeholders and all the communities around the mine sites to be healthy.”