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Sweet 16 – The Forgotten SDG in Mining Towns

When mining giants approach ESG, there is a strong showing of environmental focus alongside a growing interest in social performance. Governance always remains as the tricky concept, but it goes hand-in-hand with the "S" in ESG. We can't expect peaceful societies and strong social performance without fair and transparent governance both in the community and at the workplace.

Mining operators and consultants may think the only governance within their control rests with the C-suite and their internal operations. However, Mining industry professional Nicolette Taylor believes mining companies can make a greater community governance impact than they may realize at first glance.

To understand this, try applying Goal 16 of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. Goal 16 challenges society to "promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels."

Upon hearing this definition, many mining executives may think best way to assist surrounding communities is to provide funding to local governments. For instance, Resolution Copper, a joint venture between Rio Tinto and BHP has committed over a million dollars annually to supplement the local police force in Superior, Arizona. The intent of this spend is to offset the impacts associated with the increased workforce and local traffic the planned underground mining operation will ultimately bring to the area.

However, how is this money being spent? If mine operators want to truly set up the community for success, they need to go deeper than simple handouts, which in the long-run handicaps the community from being strong and self-sufficient.

Instead, Taylor argues a stronger ESG impact could be realized by offering procedural and digital transformation services to these municipalities as part of the overall community engagement efforts. After living in Superior, Arizona, and seeing the woeful gaps in access to justice as well as other transparency issues in this community first-hand, Taylor believes mining companies need to impose improved processes and digital access to services for mining-supported municipalities.

From Taylor's observations, the gaps seem endless. From inefficient practices at Town Hall, to lack of pubic resources available digitally by local courthouses, to serious police force administrative issues, Taylor has seen it all within her case study.

One of the simplest yet disturbing examples to begin with comes from how the Superior Police Department interfaces with the public. They have a new lovely office, which is more visible to the community than before. This is a great step. But how long should it take to receive a police report upon request?

For every day a victim does not have this record in his or her hands, that person is vulnerable to the mess that is our US justice system. That individual may experience additional crime while waiting for justice without any means of helping officers connect the dots through clear and prompt reporting records. For most residents, it takes weeks or months to obtain a simple police report upon request. One life-long resident pestered the Superior Police Department every day for weeks until he could finally could walk away with a single report for insurance claim purposes. Another resident states she has been waiting for her police reports for over a year.

This indicates something is broken in the process. So, just what is this process? It begins with a member of the public filling out a paper form for the records request. The Police Department has no website where you can access this form. Instead you must obtain it in-person as the email address for the department is nowhere to be found on the non-existing website.

This is just one tiny grievance. If the process for submitting a request is this challenging, imagine how the rest of this process runs. Taylor can attest that it is most certainly deficient and needs to change.

Small, remote mining towns like Superior often rely on archaic business practices. Instead of throwing money at this, Taylor recommends throwing a person at it. Hiring an individual to support the digital transition for police stations and town halls is an imperative first step. This simple act creates a bond between the organization and the municipality while also ensuring future funding is not wasted within a dysfunctional system.

The remaining question is, who is up for the challenge? If you know of a mining company who has taken these steps or interested in learning how, be sure to leave a comment.

This story is the first of many to come in Net-Positive Mining's Sweet 16 blog series. Together, we can make a net-positive difference, one ESG story at a time.

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