Mining operations and the communities and regions that host them are inextricably linked. When change, shocks or significant events occur that effect these communities – whether or not related to mining activities – the industry can, and often does, play an important role in supporting them to recover and even prosper.
This has been evidenced by the Covid-19 pandemic, where mining operations were able to provide significant support for often remote communities in understanding and responding to the health and economic crisis. But it can also be seen when mines close, natural disasters occur or during extreme environmental events (eg floods or fires).
In coming years, community resilience is likely to be tested by the rapid adoption of technology and automation (described as the fourth industrial revolution), and the resulting transition of skills required to work in the mining industry of the future.
What is community resilience?
‘Community resilience’ usually means having the capacity to respond to negative events in ways that result in situations returning to ‘normal’ afterwards. This doesn’t recognise the potential of an event to catalyse the resetting of the status quo in line with more aspirational development goals.
In light of disruptions like the Covid-19 pandemic and the fourth industrial revolution, the mining industry has the opportunity to reconsider what ‘community resilience’ can mean and how it can best contribute to communities. The industry can reshape its definition of resilience as ‘the capacity of communities to respond, adapt and thrive regardless of challenge or context’.
Contributing to community resilience
ICMM’s research found that there were nine factors underpinning community resilience: local knowledge and engagement; social and cultural networks; communications capacity; physical health; mental outlook; economic vitality; preparedness and institutions; sustainability; and organisation and leadership.
As part of Mining Principle 9 Social performance, ICMM company members commit to pursue continual improvement in social performance and contribute to the social, economic and institutional development of host countries and communities. By better understanding the factors underpinning community resilience, the mining industry can collaborate with government, companies, civil society groups and communities themselves to identify new ways to support more autonomous, less dependent, stronger and prosperous community–company relationships.
The resilience of communities, and how the mining industry can contribute to its development, is the focus of ICMM’s Skills for our Common Future initiative (the ‘Skills Initiative’) . It responds to the urgent need for communities where ICMM members operate to prosper and thrive through the disruptions of a world that is changing rapidly as a result of economic transition, climate change and other significant and disruptive events.