Resilience is at the heart of participating, enduring and prospering
By ICMM's Danielle Martin and VoconiQ's Dr Kieren Moffat.
The mining industry is inextricably linked to the fortunes and futures of the communities that live alongside its operations, and the jurisdictions where significant mining activity is hosted.
Disruption – both positive and negative – occurs at different stages throughout the life of a mine, certainly at the point of closure, and particularly when a reliance on employment and business opportunities has developed. Be they subtle or significant events, communities in mining areas are inherently exposed to the ups and downs of the mining life cycle.
When change, shocks, or significant events occur that affect these communities, the mining industry can play a significant role in supporting communities to endure, bounce back, and perhaps even positively accelerate development progress. This has been demonstrated time and again during the global pandemic, during which the mining industry responded swiftly with two priorities; i) to protect the health and safety of employees and local communities; and ii) to lay the groundwork to support the longer-term economic recovery, including supporting livelihoods, protecting severely disrupted supply chains, and helping to build long-term community resilience to future crises.
Mining’s role in contributing to community resilience is at the heart of ICMM’s Skills for our Common Future initiative (the 'Skills Initiative'). This is a 15-year aspirational goal that will see ICMM members working in partnership to accelerate government efforts and catalyse the building of skills that support communities to become more resilient, to participate in economic opportunities that emerge across mining and other sectors, and to better enable them to navigate and prosper through change. The Initiative builds on members’ commitments through the Mining Principles, to pursue continual improvement in social performance and contribute to the social, economic and institutional development of host countries and communities.
The Skills Initiative is in the first phase of building knowledge to refine the programme design and is being informed by insights and current best practices from the approximately 650 mine sites that ICMM’s members operate around the world. Over its 15-year life, the Skills Initiative will help scale-up and shape skills programmes that contribute to community resilience in more than 50 countries. As part of this knowledge building phase, the International Council on Mining and Metals collaborated with Voconiq to better understand the industry’s role in, and nature of its influence on community resilience. The collaboration explored how the industry could help support greater resilience in the communities it operates alongside and how community resilience could be a vehicle for enhancing development outcomes in whatever context mining activity takes place. Read a summary of that work here.
It revealed nine underpinning factors that contribute to community resilience and the extent to which mining companies currently focus their attention on each1.
ICMM, mining companies, associations spoke about ‘resilience’ most often in the context of climate change and other environmental considerations, while ‘community resilience’ was most often cited in the context of ‘economic vitality’. This is unsurprising given mining is a transformative economic activity with deep connections to environmental management. Community resilience was much less often mentioned in the context of ‘social networks’, ‘communications’ and ‘organisation and leadership’. These are areas in which the mining industry has resources and know-how to make significant differences in the capacity of communities.
For example, mining companies are adept at developing and nurturing the leadership capacities of their own people and have mature principles for organisational structure required to manage (often) highly geographically distributed assets. Likewise, the mining industry has developed communications infrastructure, protocols and know-how for staying connected during emergencies as well as in more normal times. Considering how the industry may leverage these assets for broader community resilience may unlock stronger and more positive relationships between mining and its host communities.
A clearer understanding of and sharper focus on ‘community resilience’ offer opportunities for the mining industry to contribute to community capacities in new and productive ways. In the same way that investment in underpinning mobile technology infrastructure can enable a constellation of independent, solution-focused entrepreneurship within a development context (e.g. the mobile-based service economy of Nigeria), investment by mining in the levers of community resilience less obviously connected to its own economic engines may support stronger resiliency through reducing dependency on mining. In this way, the mining industry, working with enabling and collaborative partners (e.g. CSOs, governments), may in fact consider reframing the development of resilience as leveraging the power of community creativity, resources and drive to define a more prosperous future regardless of what life throws at all of us.
1. This refers to the 27 company and 37 association members of ICMM that were included in the research.