When Women in Mining UK publishes its list of the top 100 inspirational women in mining around the globe, it highlights women’s talent, celebrates their contributions and identifies role models for future generations.
Named to the list is Monica Ospina, the founder of O Trade, a firm that works with mining companies to create regional development through community engagement. The company operates on the premise that sustainability issues have become key business imperatives, and are critical to developing a strategic approach to mitigate social conﬂict and obtain the social license to operate.
Ospina created the Local Community Procurement Program, a sustainable supply chain model awarded by the IFC-World Bank in 2012. She has also contributed to the IFC-World Bank’s Guide for the Early Stakeholder Engagement and participated in discussion groups for the Sustainable Development Goals at the RIO + 20 World Convention on Sustainable Development in 2012. She was named a distinguished Lecturer by CIM in 2020 and 2021 and is the author of Social and Human Capital: Strategic Investment to Guarantee Non-Conflict and Sustainable Future for Mining, and its Supply Chain.
She shared some career highlights and industry insights in this exclusive interview with MINING.COM.
MDC: How did you arrive at a career in mining?
Ospina: I started O Trade back in 2007. We design and implement solutions [to] help mining companies to integrate communities and create value for stakeholders and shareholders. The purpose of the work we do is that when we integrate communities, it’s not only in terms of the jobs, it’s also in terms of the supply chains.
[Its] in terms of understanding what happens in their environment for the permitting process and also around how you can work with communities on serious issues like what preserving water for quantity and quality, and how you can work with communities around the environment and biodiversity. It’s how you really integrate communities into the operation for having, ideally, a conflict free environment.
MDC: Any project that you’re working on right now that you’re particularly excited about?
Ospina: We create and implement solutions that allow me to create many methodologies. I work in different phases of the mining cycle because when you integrate communities they have to be adjusted to every facet. It’s very different to work in exploration from the social context. Not only [are] the jobs are an expectation that you don’t know. So, when you talk about how you handle that early engagement and land access, I use the analogy of you might have a Ferrari, but you don’t have the keys and the communites are the keys. If you don’t have the acceptance, you won’t have the approval. You won’t have the social license, so you don’t have the keys [to] the property.
MDC: What do you think are that some challenges and opportunities for women in the industry?
Ospina: I think the challenges for women in the industry [are] if we want to compare a corporate world and working in the field, we really need to adjust. Each woman is very different from somebody who is going to be 20 days on and eight days home. It’s going to be very difficult for them to be part of that. And at the same time, it’s going to be very difficult for the mine to have a daycare. So it is complicated. How are we to recognize and welcome the role of women in society and as an industry adapted to that?
When you go into a boardroom or in a meeting, you are bringing talent. You are not bringing gender. They normally want to see talent in that form. If you wear heels in the meeting and not boots, it doesn’t make you less talented.
MDC: What do you consider misconceptions about the industry?
Ospina: Number one is some other industries think that we don’t know the raw of society. We know the dark side of corruption. We know how difficult it is living in certain areas. We understand poverty. We understand extreme governments. We understand abuse. We understand how serious things are and we are the only industry that will invest. We are the only industry that can lift humanity in those regions and that is very sad that we don’t see it.
Another misconception is that when we go to certain regions, people think that the entire region will disappear. And no, sometimes it’s a small footprint of investment and sacrifice, and even more now that we are talking about underground mining with there’s a lot of technology happening.
The impact could be if you put pressure on that company and you put pressure on them helping [the environment] the footprint could be very little, and the benefits could be enormous.