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Building Better Community Relationships


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Building Better Community Relationships

As the mining industry evolves and more discoveries are made, modern mining organisations are dedicated to fostering a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) relationship with the communities they are working in.

What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Mallen Baker is dedicated to answering this question. His definition of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is “CSR is about how companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society.” The following diagram illustrates the processes needing consideration in CSR:

Companies focus not only on their external impact on the society but also the quality of management within the company and include both the processes and the people.

Micheal Blowfield of the London Business School and George Frynas of Middlesex University provide the following definition:

“CSR is an umbrella term for a variety of theories and practices all of which recognize the following: (a) that companies have a responsibility for their impact on society and the natural environment, sometimes beyond legal compliance and the liability of individuals; (b) that companies have a responsibility for the behaviour of others with whom they do business (e.g. within supply chains); and that, (c) business needs to manage its relationship with the wider society, whether for reasons of commercial viability, or to add value to society.”

Nearly every country has their own CSR model and framework from which they want to achieve corporate social responsibility. Within the national framework, each mining organisation has their set of procedures and policies which they follow. In places where there are no legal requirements or laws pertaining to CSR, corporations are encouraged to act “ethically and responsibly”.

Companies understand the way in which they conduct business, with the government, local stakeholders and the community, will shape the context within the way they work. For their work activities to be seen as contributing to the local community, businesses need to strive for strong relationships.

Australian Mining Corporations Operating Overseas

Australian mining corporations not only focus on fostering strong relationships locally but internationally as well. Senator Conroy provided some responses to Senator Ludlam’s questions on Australian mining companies operating overseas stating;

“Australian companies are responsible for ensuring they abide by the laws of the jurisdiction in which they operate as well as Australian laws that apply extraterritorially. The Australian Government expects all Australian companies to comply with all applicable laws and obligations when operating abroad and to conduct their business according to best practice.

The Australian Government also expects Australian companies to conduct their business overseas according to best practice, which includes preventing and rectifying environmental and social damage.”

As noted above, Australian mining companies are required to abide by all laws, obligations and best business practices when operating overseas. Mining corporations have employed strategies to improve the social and economic standing of communities within which they are operating.

Other organisations like AusAID run supportive programs whereby overseas government mining officials are brought to Australia to attend short courses to improve their capacity to manage resources sustainability and equitability.

BHP Billiton is the world’s third largest company, measured by market capitalisation. It is a global mining, oil and gas company headquartered in Melbourne. The company operates a wide variety of mining and processing operations in 25 countries, employing approximately 41,000 people.

The company is actively involved in corporate social responsibility stating:

“Community programs are operated at four levels across the Company – local, provincial or regional, national and global. The majority of our efforts occur locally at our operations where our businesses implement programs to develop and support the communities close to us”and “Across the business, our goal is to make a positive contribution to the people in our host communities.”
BHP have created various foundations through which to help local communities; a few are summarised below:
  • The Minera Escondida Foundation in Chile has a founding mission to contribute to improving the quality of life of low-income groups, principally in Antofagasta and the Second Region but also nationally.
  • The Tintaya Foundation in Peru is an independent non-profit organisation created with the support of our Tintaya copper operation. The main purpose of the Foundation is to promote and improve self-management and participation processes in the communities within Tintaya's area of influence, thus contributing to their sustainable development.
  • The Montel√≠bano Educational Foundation in Colombia focuses on education provision for Cerro Matoso employees and their families and also provides places for students from the surrounding communities.
  • The BHP Billiton SEWA Society (referred to as the BHP Billiton India Development Foundation) was established in early 2005 to invest in the development of human and social capabilities in India. While the first projects are in Orissa, attention will be given to Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in the coming year. Areas of focus include education, health, rural development and integration of Indigenous peoples in development and respecting and preserving Indigenous peoples' cultural and natural heritage.
Sourced and quoted directly from the BHP Website

BHP also has an Employee Matched Giving Program where the company will match any donations given by employees to not-for-profit organisations.

More information on the community projects can be found in BHP’s Sustainability Report.

Australia’s Corporate Social Responsibility

The Australian Human Rights Commission provides fact sheets for oil, mining and gas companies offering information and strategies to implement good business practices into corporate social responsibility policies. There are also dedicated organisations like Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR) that offer advisory services, training workshops and assist organisations in creating responsible business strategies including managing stakeholder relationships.

The Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining are involved in social research; provide services including framework development and customised studies; and co-ordinate education and training activities. They have a very informative website at

Below are a few examples of the current initiatives occurring in the mining industry:
  • Fortescue Metals Group Ltd - Fortescueare focusing on the Pilbara region through employing locals, purchasing local material and services and paying rates, taxes and royalties. Fortescue believe in community investments and offer grants to support community projects within the boundaries of the Town of Port Hedland and the Shire of East Pilbara. More information can be found at the FMGL website.
  • Fortescue Metals Group Ltd Vocational Training and Employment Centre (VTEC) –This is a training program aimed at equipping Indigenous people with the necessary skills to gain and maintain ongoing employment in the mining sector. More information can be found at VTEC.
  • Argyle Diamond Mine –Argyle is committed to creating training, employment and contracting opportunities within the East Kimberley communities. The company also has partnerships with regional organisations and businesses ensuring that decisions and economic growth remain within the local communities. Argyle has signed a Participation Agreement with the region’s Traditional Owners, which preserves Traditional Owners’ rights and interests in relation to the mining lease area. More information can be found at the Argyle Diamond Mine website.
  • Coal and Allied – In 2010 Coal and Allied directly invested $1.7 million into local community projects. They are determined to build stronger and more sustainable communities by investing in local community development funds, providing donations, sponsorships and partnerships. Coal & Allied support campaigns like “Play it Safe”, where community safety is promoted, and the “100% Knights” programme will provide pathways for local Indigenous students from school into successful careers. Coal & Allied have strong partnerships with other community-focused companies and more information can be obtained from the Coal &Allied website.
  • Xstrata –Xstrata has an “open and honest” policy where they actively communicate with local communities to ensure that any concerns are addressed immediately and that new strategies and developments can be put into place. Local cultural heritage sites are often protected and resettlement is avoided wherever possible. Xstrata are respectful of Indigenous cultures and heritages and work with local communities to ensure the safety of artefacts and specified lands.
Employment opportunities are created for locals with training and economic developments being implemented. Xstrata are adamant about maintaining health and safety regulations and actively ensure the wellbeing of local communities. Clinics, pharmacies, free treatment and testing centres have been built within high health risk areas and health education programmes are taught to the local families. Emphasis is placed on partnership programmes with other businesses to promote education, social development, health and community support. More information can be obtained from the Xstrata website.


Mining organisations are acutely aware of their impact on local communities and they strive to foster cohesive and safe working and living environments. By investing in the community, economic growth can be cultivated now and in the future.

Each organisation determines their own corporate social responsibility framework adapted to suit local, neighbouring and the wider communities. Main emphasis is placed on education, health and social development whilst using local resources and supporting local productions and businesses, thus growing the local economy.

Organisations usually have sustainability reports available on their websites which can be viewed thus providing local communities with a transparent view of exact local business operations, ensuring accountability and social responsibility are maintained.

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