Every individual has the right to be treated fairly and with respect. In an increasingly globalised world, there is greater scrutiny of corporate impact on people and communities.
The mining industry generates widespread economic and social benefits for local communities during the operating life of a mine and indeed after its closure. However, in any large-scale project with potentially significant impacts, even those managed to the highest standards, issues may arise that generate local concerns or grievances. Having a dependable local mechanism in place for handling and resolving complaints and grievances is responsible practice.
This is reflected in ICMM’s 2013 Position Statement on Indigenous Peoples and Mining, which requires member companies to “Address the likelihood that differences of opinion will arise, which in some cases may lead to setbacks or delays in reaching a negotiated agreement in good faith. Companies and potentially impacted indigenous communities should agree on reasonable tests or avenues of recourse at the outset… This might include seeking mediation or advice from mutually acceptable parties”. ICMM members actively contribute to the development of best practices on community relations and human rights, including guidance on handling and resolving concerns and grievances. An effective and transparent complaints procedure is therefore an imperative.
A foundation of trust
ICMM supports the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and encourages other companies to make adequate provision for complaint and redress. Providing a reliable and respected channel of communication with local people over issues of concern can serve as a tool to build trust and strengthen stakeholder support for new and existing mining operations.
An example of how this approach is being applied in practice is BHP’s industry leading human rights and grievances mechanism. In March 2017, BHP topped a new benchmark ranking companies on their performance against human rights. This result followed two years of research and consultation with companies, NGOs and government bodies. BHP places a premium on remedying human rights issues, with dispute resolution integrated into BHP’s risk management system through a mandatory community standards policy. This policy requires local-level complaints and grievance mechanisms to be in place for all people potentially impacted by the activities of each of their assets.
A grievance mechanism needs to be open, and seen to be open, to all sections of the community. Language, literacy and other cultural factors should never present an impediment to community members wishing to lodge complaints. BHP has streamlined their approach for communities to lodge complaints. A business conduct hotline and online case management system, EthicsPoint, also helps to ensure that all those who work for or on behalf of BHP are given a just and fair means of resolution.
Redress for all
Newmont Ghana Gold Limited, a subsidiary of the Newmont Mining Corporation, established its own procedure for the resolution of concerns and grievances at its Ahafo operation in Ghana. The scheme at Ahafo is based largely internally, but with the option for the company to seek assistance from an independent third party in cases where the proposed resolution is not approved by senior management and or by the complainant. Ongoing monitoring is built into the procedure, as is a ‘grievance officer’, responsible for the overall management of the system.
Newmont Ghana Gold are firmly upholding fundamental human rights and respect cultures, customs and values in dealings with employees and others who are affected by our activities, one of the core principles of ICMM’s Sustainable Development Framework.
[Watch the above video to find out more about Newmont Mining’s Social and Environmental Performance]
The Sumitomo Metal Mining Company’s philosophy is to make positive contributions to society and to promote sustainable co-existence with society and the global environment. They aim to be a forward-minded and respectful company that recognises the dignity and value of each individual. Sumitomo established a Speak Up system so employees can report violations of any laws, ordinances, or the company’s Articles of Incorporation. Additionally, their internal regulations clearly prohibit the disadvantageous treatment of any whistle blower using the Speak Up system.
Mining with Principles requires a commitment to inclusive decision-making, to support economic development, to enhance wellbeing and to expand the capabilities of communities to effectively engage companies and governments on these issues. By designing complaints procedures that embody respected and predictable processes, companies can send a clear signal that they consider complaints in a fair and sensitive manner, leading to the building of trusting relationships with local communities.