Mining industry still struggling with social responsibility

Published at Nov 13, 2015, in Features

A key academic has claimed that the mining industry is being held back in ensuring social sustainability with their operations because they are scared to learn from bad practice.

Speaking at the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne yesterday, Professor David Brereton from the Sustainable Minerals Institute out of the University of Queensland claimed that mining companies only wanted to learn from best practice.

“I think in the social domain I think we’ve done a lot of good work in being able to capture good practice,” Brereton said. “It’s easier to capture good practice then to get the industry to learn about bad practice, and that’s a much more sensitive place to go.

“That’s been a harder thing to get the industry to engage with then perhaps telling the positive good stories.”

Providing social sustainability in mining operations has been a hot topic of late, with the industry starting to look at the issue as a business problem rather than a feel-good PR exercise.

With social disruption to mining operations, whether a social or environmental protest, leading to lost days in an industry currently feeling the pinch of depressed commodity prices, mining companies are trying to figure out the best way to leave a sustainable legacy from their operations.

However, executive general manager at MMG Limited Troy Hey said that for the large part, the industry was still “floundering around” on the issue of conducting mining operations with as little disruption to the local population as possible.

“We are floundering around as a mining industry trying to work out how to do that [social] contract, how we get the contribution between communities and mining companies right,” Hey said.

“In the mining industry we tend to be very good at building things and spending money, that’s what we’re good for because we’re engineers.

“But unless we become good at dialogue and become good at engagement, build a direct relationship with those communities in which we live in we’re not going to find out what that social dividend is.

“If we don’t do this, others will do it for us.”

MMG Limited was at the centre of a mine protest at its La Bamba mine earlier this year, with the protest turning violent.

Earlier in the week, MMG CEO Andrew Michelmore said the protests were partially about frustration with the Peruvian government rather than purely about the mine.

MMG has held interfaith dialogues with the local community in Peru and has provided housing for those affected by the mining, but the frustration with government policies was something Ken Green, a senior director at the Fraser Institute, said was rife.

“I think the real challenge in sustainability is how the government manages the income from it. What the government does for example when commodity prices are high, what do they do with the revenues?” Green asked.

“The governments are unsustainably managing the revenue flows from mining and that leads to social dysfunction when commodity prices fall.”

Meanwhile CEO of Oxfam Australia, Dr Helen Szoke, said some mining companies were doing good work to ensure that mining operations left a positive legacy.

However, she said mining companies traditionally sought to throw money at a community rather than equipping them with skills and amenities which would leave a positive impact long after the mining company had left town.

“I would go back to our concern which is about human beings, and sustainability being about what is left for those communities after the 20, 30, or 40 year lifecycle of the mine,” Dr Szoke said.

“We’ve seen lots of evidence where mining companies have felt they’ve done the right thing by building villages, by doing relocations but then what is the durability of those communities unless they also have the capacity to look after it themselves?

“How do we avoid creating a different kind of welfare or dependency?”

Hey also said the mining industry tended to listen to the community on a superficial level.

“Some of the fault we have as a mining industry is that we listen all the time. We do lots of work to listen but we need to very clearly say why we’re doing this project, what we expect it to offer and what we will deliver to the community,” Hey said.

“The license to operate thing is ‘I’ll listen to all your demands, and then meet the minimum’.”

Where to invest $1,000 right now

When the experts at Next Investors have a stock pick, it may pay to listen.

The Next Investors have been investing in ASX small cap stocks for years, with their best small cap picks yielding returns of 1,200%, 1,120%, 900% and 678%.

They have just revealed their hand-picked, FY2021 stock portfolio of high conviction long-term investments.

Click the link below to see what they are currently investing in.


S3 Consortium Pty Ltd (CAR No.433913) is a corporate authorised representative of LeMessurier Securities Pty Ltd (AFSL No. 296877). The information contained in this article is general information only. Any advice is general advice only. Neither your personal objectives, financial situation nor needs have been taken into consideration. Accordingly you should consider how appropriate the advice (if any) is to those objectives, financial situation and needs, before acting on the advice.

Conflict of Interest Notice

S3 Consortium Pty Ltd does and seeks to do business with companies featured in its articles. As a result, investors should be aware that the Firm may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this article. Investors should consider this article as only a single factor in making any investment decision. The publishers of this article also wish to disclose that they may hold this stock in their portfolios and that any decision to purchase this stock should be done so after the purchaser has made their own inquires as to the validity of any information in this article.

Publishers Notice

The information contained in this article is current at the finalised date. The information contained in this article is based on sources reasonably considered to be reliable by S3 Consortium Pty Ltd, and available in the public domain. No “insider information” is ever sourced, disclosed or used by S3 Consortium.

Australian ASX Small Cap stocks | Why is Australia’s leading small cap publication

Founded seven years ago, is Australia’s leading and longest standing website for investor and finance news, education and expert opinion.

Published by StocksDigital, Finfeed was created to report daily on the comings and goings of ASX listed stocks in the small cap market.

As the first digital publication dedicated specifically to this space, Finfeed soon became the most trusted publication in the market, quickly garnering over two million page views – a number that continues to rise. provides its readers with informative articles that tackle the latest in market moving #ASX small cap news, plus exclusive content you won’t find anywhere else. It is aimed at those with an interest in investing, market education, company performance, start-ups and much more. is the only media organisation operating under the strength of a Financial Services License and is backed by leading journalists and analysts all with brands of their own.

The website aims to inform, educate and entertain with content that drills down into the heart of financial matters.

Finfeed is a leading source of investor and market information, with everything investors need to know about how to invest written in a way that anyone can understand. 

Over the years, the website has expanded beyond exclusively reporting on small caps, to profile Australia’s leading ASX listed small, mid and large caps as well as some of the country’s most successful CEOs and business leaders to find out what makes them tick.

Every day you will find fresh content covering:

Fast Facts

Over 4,000 articles published

Over 2.3 Million Page Views and counting

Over 10,000 followers on social media

Subscriber list growing by 2% monthly

Thanks for subscribing!