JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Communities cannot participate on an equal nor meaningful level with mining companies if they are not adequately capacitated and informed by the industry, Sibanye-Stillwater stakeholder engagement head Thabisile Phumo said in a panel discussion during the Joburg Indaba on Thursday.
She stated that the trust deficit between communities and companies was as a result of a deficit in communication on both sides, misaligned expectations on the part of the communities and the industry’s chequered history.
“There hasn’t been a significant step change by a lot of professionals in the community development space to enable communities to organise properly or empower themselves.”
Phumo explained that, aside from the inherent power dynamic, inequality also arises from an inability to engage, a lack of education regarding their rights as well as their responsibilities as an affected party and industry stakeholder.
Bench Marks Foundation executive director John Capel agreed and suggested that mining companies look into Bench Marks’ proposal to develop an Independent Capacity-Building Fund (ICF), paid for by the industry and government.
The ICF would facilitate informed decision-making by communities, as well as address skewed power relations, allowing for a more level playing field and increasing developmental capacity, thereby leading to better developmental outcomes, improved relations and dialogue between communities and the industry.
Section27 executive director Mark Heywood, meanwhile, stressed that the industry needed to develop benchmarks that measure the success of any given community engagement and urged delegates at the indaba to seriously peruse Bench Marks’ Independent Problem Solving Service (IPSS) and its proposals.
Capel added that, working across forty mining jurisdictions, the foundation has not seen any hint of a best practice model, noting that more often than not, it is a case of mining companies cynically complying to get a mining licence.
He suggested that the IPSS be one of the only guides for practical, non-adversarial, proactive engagement, and said it was an important step toward establishing best practice.
He further suggested that “mining stakeholder offices have to be capacitated as well.”