Mining is for future generations: Graça Machel opens ICMM sustainability conversation at Mining Indaba (ICMM – February 19, 2015)

Graça Machel of Mozambique, took the feisty tone of the freedom fighting that has dominated her life to remind the mining industry that it should think beyond the mine and beyond this generation.

There must be a more strategic dialogue between mining companies and society, governments, investors and the communities that support mines, she told the audience during the Sustainable Development program, co-hosted with Mining Indaba on 12 February 2015 in Cape Town.

“Think differently and you will act differently: it is no longer business as usual. Use the mine to build local expertise and to contribute to national development for generations,” she said.

A women and children’s rights activist, former education minister and wife of the late Nelson Mandela, Machel emphasized the need for change working towards all members of the community having representation and capacity to converse with industry through democratic leadership; ensuring the mining industry has an understanding of land as a community’s heritage and the role of community funds.

Her strongest plea was to use the “brainpower, energy and expertise” of women in mining – as workers but also strategists, financial experts and investors. Mining needs to draw on the valuable contribution of women and all parts of society, because it is good business, and “it’s the democratic way”.

Machel’s opening keynote set the scene for two panels offering rich discussion. Tom Albanese, CEO of the Indian miner Vedanta pointed out that engagement is much stronger today, yet conflict is on the rise. He and others on the panel – harnessing the potential of mining – saw that trend reflecting higher expectations and better global connection through social media.

Dr Rev Opuni-Frimpong of Ghana, and echoed by Archbishop Chama representing Central Africa and Zambia, argued for better listening and simpler communications between mining, governments, communities and especially the media who form the image of mining in the public mind. Newmont’s Johan Ferreira emphasized the need for long-term planning with improved listening and understanding from the beginning of the mine life cycle, while Anita George, of the Energy and Extractive Industries practice, World Bank Group signalled access to electricity, local job creation, worker and community health, water management, and gender equality as five key areas to focus on as we look to Africa in 2030.

A second panel on building trust considered the trust deficit faced by mining, viewed through the eyes of social researchers and practitioners such as Ven Pillay of AngloGold Ashanti who promised to confuse the audience by making them wonder if she actually worked for a mining company. Today, she said, environment and engagement with our host societies is core business, not the aspiration of activists.

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