Mining Procurement Must Involve Local Communities
Posted: 05/09/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0
Indigenous Australians have vast business opportunities overseas if they can share their mining experience with foreign companies who are struggling to engage with Aboriginal communities.
The growth of the mining sector in Australia owes much to its engagement with Aboriginal communities. Whilst tensions between the two still make headlines, local miners’ working relationship with Indigenous Australians is the envy of foreign miners.
The unique experiences of Aboriginal workers in particular are in hot demand in Latin America miners who are struggling to communicate the benefits of mining to local communities.
In 2011, Xstrata Copper faced heated opposition from communities in southern Peru to its mining activities. Locals feared the desecration of the environment and habitat which have been central to their lives and traditions for centuries.
It’s not just happening in Peru. Miners in Colombia and Chile face the same problems and want to learn how our companies engage and develop mutually beneficial relationships with indigenous Australians.
Whilst its mostly large miners like Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Chevron who have teams dedicated to communicating with these stakeholders, smaller miners have also found success.
Companies who do this well have a common trait: they engage indigenous populations early in their mine planning. They are also often the ones responsible for introducing procurement strategies that benefit local communities.
Unlike environmental and native title regulations which miners are all too familiar with, getting local communities involved in procurement initiatives is a new territory.
But miners aren’t alone. In fact, governments in various African nations who want to attract mining investors are deregulating the entry barriers to encourage miners to involve locals in their procurement strategies.
The result: improved economic development in mining territories as well as increased wealth where it is often most needed.
Whilst government intervention will always help, it is ultimately up to mining companies to maximise their relationships with indigenous communities to form mutually-beneficial outcomes.
However, it’s important to stress that procurement strategies involving indigenous communities need to be grounded in corporate social responsibility, rather than it being a means to an end.
Mining companies in Latin America are now desperate for the innovative skills of the Australian mining services industry. How we use our talents determines the future of our mining industry.
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