Social responsibility in mining is basic risk management, not feel-good projects

When Canada's prime minister attended the America's summit a fortnight ago he provided a snapshot of the contribution of mining to the country and the broader world.

Mining accounts for more than 20% of Canada’s exports. 60% of the world's mining companies are listed in Toronto and the industry owns assets worth close to $200 billion all over the globe. Canada's miners have pumped some $100 billion into South America and Africa since 2004.

Harper also told Latin American business leaders Canadians are “justly proud” of their mining industry “for its elevated sense of social responsibility,” signalling how important community cooperation and wider social involvement  are for miners operating abroad.

Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives by mining companies operating in emerging markets in South America, Africa and Asia have become a crucial part of doing business as, in the words of research house Eurasia Group, “above-ground risks are quickly gaining equal footing to traditional geological and engineering considerations for mining projects.”

The Vancouver Sun takes a look at CSR in its current issue and under the headline Extracting the risk from mining writes "current markets give Canadian companies the opportunity to put fair and effective policies in place:"

In the past, many companies increased spending on poorly considered "feel-good" projects when prices were high, and then cut them when prices dropped. So it is no surprise that global best practice – including recent revisions to the IFC standards – puts more emphasis on social management.

Growing global understanding of social-management systems – made up of assessments, policies, management oversight and deployment of teams with appropriate budgets and training – reflects a deeper understanding of CSR as a basic operating obligation for all extractive companies, regardless of size or global location. CSR is scalable, just as other risk-management systems are.