Industry Leaders

Technical Coordinator Srmining 2013 Technical Coordinator Srmining 2013

Jacques Wiertz

“True sustainability means incorporating social responsibility as a core value in the heart of the mining business”

The technical coordinator of Srmining 2013, Jacques Wiertz, says that today the mining industry knows that along with maximizing profits it also needs to make the concise decision to contribute to community development and the welfare of the people in the communities in which they operate. 

What are the new approaches/SR trends in the mining sector? 

The biggest challenge is still encouraging dialogue and genuine participation. Today some companies still understand the participation process as one through which the companies inform communities and publicize their projects. However, there are few opportunities for genuine community participation when it comes to decision making and the design of projects and social programs. Several companies have developed mechanisms and instances such as thematic workshops that allow them to reach real consensuses and build solutions suitable for all parties.     

What do you consider to be the main points of vulnerability in the mining sector? Why is mining so susceptible to triggering social conflicts?

Mining has several characteristics that make it more susceptible than other industries to social conflicts. It is a temporal activity, invasive, and can generate significant environmental impact, producing significant rejection. Additionally, there is the perception that mining companies make a profit by exploiting resources that should belong to everyone. In response, companies must prove that they can actually contribute to the social development of communities, respectfully and compromising. 

Do you think mining companies are becoming aware of how important it is to invest in social responsibility? 

No mining company can ignore that developing its projects requires the approval of relevant government agencies and agreements with the communities located in the region of the intended projects. These agreements require serious work, supported by a liability policy backed by the highest levels of management. 

What is expected from the Second International Conference on Social Responsibility in Mining? Who will come together for this event?

In the second edition of this conference Srmining seeks to strengthen itself as a globally significant event in relation to social responsibility in mining. The industry, heavily criticized for its environmental and social impacts, is exploring new ways to come to an understanding with communities and with local, regional, and national authorities. Today the industry knows that along with maximizing profits related to transforming mining resources into commodities and consumer products, it also needs to make the concise decision to contribute to community development and the welfare of the people in the towns in which they operate, all the while ensuring minimal environmental and social impact. This year the conference seeks to incorporate even more actors, involving not only representatives from the mining sector but also representatives from communities, NGOs and government institutions. 

One of the objectives of Srmining 2013 is “to embed SR, social license and sustainable development into business practices.” How are you approaching these concepts? 

The theme of this second edition of Srmining is “Beyond the social license to operate.” What I wanted to highlight through this is that real sustainability happens not by seeking the initial approval of a mining project by the social actors but when the concept of social responsibility is incorporated as a core value in the heart of the mining business. Today a company’s value is not solely measured by the return on an investment or by payments made to shareholders but also by the company’s reputation which is built on the trust and credibility. This trust is forged on a day to day basis with the community and different actors.