The mining sector must move beyond philanthropy to inclusiveness

This lack of rigorous public participation in forming mining policy is a ticking time bomb. But the problem can be overcome. In a new paper, co-authored with Tracey Cooper, executive director of Mining Dialogues 360° (MD360°), a platform for co-ordinating mining industry stakeholders, we argue that the mining industry needs an inclusive model that builds on and improves shared value.

A Harvard Business Review article describes this concept as something that generates economic value in a way that also produces value for society by addressing its challenges. This model moves beyond philanthropy or corporate social responsibility. Rather, all stakeholders, especially host communities, become participants in decisions that affect their lives. What will help them do this is a new platform used to collect, combine and analyse social and economic data.

The underlying idea is starting to gain global traction. Chalkstone Partners, a company built on lead partner Donald Bray’s Cambridge PhD in anthropology, for instance, has piloted projects built on a similar philosophy in Afghanistan, Colombia, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan. The company essentially uses “social intelligence” to identify and mitigate risks to mining investments.

Collecting and analysing data is key. Too many community engagement forums don’t produce accurate or reliable information. Communities are often fragmented and subject to the problem of self-appointed gatekeepers. To overcome this challenge MD360° is developing an open-data collaborative platform to analyse mining-related socio-economic information. Members from mine-affected communities will be able to contribute their data. The platform will give them feedback and access to information that other stakeholders, such as relevant government departments and companies have, in a communicable form.

Moving beyond mining

A platform such as this could move mining beyond licence thinking and mainstream social performance. Communities could have an equal voice to participate in solving problems that directly affect them. In a deeply divided environment, there’s always a great deal of mistrust. Contributing ideas bridges this divide and goes a long way towards stabilising relations.

A second benefit is that the platform will provide firms, policy makers and researchers with enough information to understand a local context. Crucial, too, is understanding the distribution of political power. Of course, technological intervention can’t substitute for real relationship, but it can facilitate co-operation and improve the quality of dialogue needed.

Traditionally, elites capture the benefits from mining deals. Too often, especially where mining takes place on communal land with insecure tenure, politically connected insiders tend to win at the expense of their communities. Technology can help avoid this by designing mechanisms that ensure the voices of the least powerful are included.

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