• Share

Unleashing the power of mining as a transformational partner in development

27 July 2021

For more than a decade now, mining’s unique and powerful role in the socio-economic development of regions and countries where it operates has been recognised.

By Nicky Black, Director – Social and Economic Development, ICMM and Darian Stibbe, Executive Director, TPI .

The economic, social, environmental and political impact of mining, and the size and length of time of the investments it makes, means that it has the potential to be a positive and transformational partner. By actively aligning its resources and investments alongside those of government, international development partners, communities, academics and non-government and civil society organisations it can deliver extensive social, environmental and economic benefits that contribute to community resilience both within and beyond its own value chain. And, through this, reap extensive benefits itself.

The importance of partnering was recognised in the deep and substantive work undertaken by ICMM in Mining Partnerships for Development some 10 years ago. While many of the participants in that research recognised how far partnering had come, and how central partnering was to delivering shared value, they also acknowledged how much further there was to go to truly make the most of its transformational power. 

In the intervening decade since that comprehensive toolkit was published by ICMM, there have been many examples of partnerships struck between mining companies, communities and other development actors. 

Last year, in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, our two organisations worked together with Business Fights Poverty and Jane Nelson (Director of the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School) to explore the collective leadership of the mining and metals industry in ‘building forward better’ post the pandemic. Partnerships – with all stakeholders, and across industry – was again identified as key to unleashing the unique power of the industry in being able to positively impact communities.

Also last year, ICMM initiated a major 15-year initiative, Skills for Our Common Future, which aims to catalyse the building of skills that support communities to become more resilient, better able to participate in economic opportunities in mining and other sectors, and prosper. Here again, partnerships with communities, government, non-government and civil society organisations, academia, and others – within and across industries – will be critical to its success.

But something we have learned throughout this journey is that recognising the importance of partnering, doesn’t necessarily make it easy to do, nor are all mining companies, or their partners set up to partner optimally. While of course there have been many successful collaborations and examples of leading practice from progressive companies, we are still only scratching at the surface of what is possible. 

For genuine partnering for development to be most effective, the partnering organisations need to be institutionally optimised to work as partners, with clear and compelling strategy behind why and when to partner, and what they aim to achieve, supported by the right systems and processes alongside a culture for collaboration, the necessary competencies, and the connections and relationships across stakeholders. 

In order to help companies address this challenge, our new publication released today, Partnering for our Common Future brings together The Partnering Initiative’s cutting-edge thinking from beyond mining of what an organisation needs to do in practice to partner effectively and combines it with the latest thinking and sustainable development leadership from ICMM and its members. It reflects on the experience of mining in partnering over the past decade and provides practical support to strengthen the partnering capability of the sector and those we partner with, to deliver on the vision of the global Sustainable Development Goals.

The Goals clearly lay out a vision for the world we all want and recognise that partnering sits at the heart of making that world a reality. In the global context of disruption, our efforts to become better partners and to be able to partner more effectively, have never seemed so timely or so necessary.