The Society for Mining Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) has a long and proud history of being the world's leading resource for the dissemination for technical information regarding the fields of mining and mineral extraction and processing. That reputation was meet, and maybe even exceeded, with the programming for the Society's 2014 Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, UT Feb. 23-26, but it was the so called "softer issues" that were discussed in the keynote session that kicked off the meeting.
The keynote session, "Community Engagement: Building Partnerships for Mining" brought together some of the leading voices from the mining industry as well as some of the top voices from non government organizations (NGOs) that work in the mining sector. The common ground between the panelists, was their dedication to working to ensure a social, economic and environmental balance in the development of mines.
"We wanted to bring these NGO's in to begin a dialogue to see how we can work together," said SME President Jessica Kogel. "This is a space that SME has not typically operated in, but one in which SME can bring a technical, scientific voice to the discussion. SME wants to play a leadership role in creating partnerships between the technical, social and economic areas that are crucial to the success of any mining project."
In today's environment, finding mineral deposits and extracting the minerals in an economically viable manner is just one piece of an increasingly complex puzzle. Earning and maintaining a social license to operate requires careful consideration of local and global impacts. The industry often comes under intense scrutiny when a new project is proposed and therefore it must strive to meet the highest ethical and environmental standards. Success requires cooperation and collaboration between the industry, community and NGOs.
"In spite of the need for technical advancements, the real key for success for mining projects is building relationships with the communities in which we operate," said Anthony Hodge, president, International Council on Mining and Metals in his comments preceding the keynote address.
The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) was established in 2001 to act as a catalyst for performance improvement in the mining and metals industry. Hodge spoke about the 10 principals that ICMM has established for the industry and emphasized that relationship building is the most important tool.
Citing the need for more companies to take a proactive approach to community engagement, Hodge said his group has found that conflict between mining companies and the communities in which they operate has increased in recent years.
The panel that was comprised of Margaret O'Gorman, president, Wildlife Habitat Council; Marielle Canter Weikel, senior director, responsible for mining and energy for the Center for Environmental Leadership in Business, Conservation International; Eric Lundgren, director of business development and international programs, Africare; Elaine Dorward-King, executive Vice President of sustainability, Newmont Mining Corp.; William Cobb, Vice President, environment and sustainable development, Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold and Veronica Nyhan Jones, sustainable business advisory and extractives lead, International Finance Corp. agreed that early engagement that is transparent and honest with all stakeholders is of crucial importance.