The balance between sustainability and profitability has always been a difficult one to strike, particularly within the mining industry. All too often, the pursuit of generating revenue is put above the importance of social engagement in the communities that the sector impacts. Although corporate social investment has always been a critical factor in the mining industry, more often than not proper measures are not taken to ensure their tangible impact.
According to DuPont Global Consulting Solutions, as uncertainty and complexity continue to define the context in which mining companies operate, executives are facing pressures to become more competitive and agile, while also delivering tangible value for all stakeholders.
Speaking at the 2014 African Mining Indaba, Simon Herriot, Managing Director, DuPont Global Consulting Solutions had this to say, “The need for, and desire of, mining companies to maximise benefits for local communities is quite clear. And yet, while many mining companies have bolstered their commitment and understanding of sustainable development, successful implementation remains a challenge.”
He further said, “Sustainable implementation can only happen when executives start to balance shareholder accountability with stakeholder concerns, and company success with social progress. In doing so, executives can provide products that not only address the communities’ need, but the expectations of consumers and society – while accessing new markets, creating demand and spurring growth.
Herriot added that key to this is a belief that the mining sector can truly become a vehicle for positive societal change. Historical impressions of an industry only interested in profit at any cost must be reversed in favour of a more inclusive approach that intends to share benefits of the company being in operation with community stakeholders and company shareholders alike.
The greatest obstacle towards achieving this ideal is twofold – an efficient and productive workforce and finding alternative energy solutions to help fight souring energy costs.
Finding a balance between employment and mechanisation has always been challenging for the mining industry. The best approach, Herriott believes, is one that aligns skills development and educational programmes to future business needs.
“Championing sustainable labour solutions within the mining industry relies on educating and uplifting communities. In many ways, large global entities can benefit from a dedication to promoting skills development. If executed correctly, this can directly serve the business requirements while engaging the communities.”
“Promoting critical skills development in science and mathematics with a view towards training rural youth to become mechanical or industrial engineers, for example, is an approach that can have a long-lasting impact. This allows the mine to focus on implementing mechanization where required to protect profitability, while benefitting from a well-trained and skilled work force.”
The necessity to reduce energy consumption and unnecessary wastage of valuable resources is also critical to the process. This approach demands a long-term dedication from all stakeholders and will not be something that is rectified over-night. As such it is essential that the mining industry work together to achieve a sustainable solution, concludes Herriott.