We set out to do a study on the mining houses in Rustenburg to look at how they carried out their corporate social responsibility duties - how they complied with the legislative overview of black economic empowerment, their social license obligations, and how they measured up to the MMSD (Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development) framework.
More particularly, we measured the Rustenburg mining houses against international standards using our measuring tool called "Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility, Bench Marks for Measuring Business Performance" (the Bench Marks).
We are aware of the numerous awards given for corporate social responsibility often with mining leading the way. Thus we wanted to see how the mining houses interacted with their own employees, surrounding communities and how they addressed their environmental impacts. In particular, we were interested in their investment in communities and if this was done in a sustainable manner.
As a faith community we are concerned about the moral and ethical considerations that business needs to take into account. Given our young democracy, the social challenges of dealing with high unemployment and growing poverty levels and economic exclusion are major areas where business can play a role. Central to our research is how mines can address their negative social, economic and environmental impacts in a sustainable job-creating and empowerment manner.
Our report shows that much needs to be done in terms of the environment, housing, health, labour, waste management, energy and water management, clean air and geological issues. The report demonstrates huge negative impacts on surrounding communities and goes contrary to the popular myth that the benefits from mining trickle down to local communities.
The report points to negative impacts on communities such as poor air quality, respiratory diseases, unacceptable heavy metals in water, pollution of underground water tables and changing water direction. Of concern is the HIV and AIDS pandemic linked to the proliferation of informal communities where sex work is rife and where mines do little to address these impacts. Also of concern are the housing and labour policies, the living out allowance and the ongoing discrimination of women in the employment policies of the mines.
What is striking is what the mines do not report on – the omissions in reporting on geological issues, hydrological issues, atmospheric issues and seismic events.
While the report demonstrates that the mining houses comply with a legislative overview there exists a gap between policy and practice. Through this study we propose a new way of looking at corporate social responsibility – one that is developmental in nature, inclusive and that empowers local communities.
Each section of the research report lists recommendations and the final section addresses a new way of dealing with social, economic and environmental impacts in a way that empowers communities and creates jobs by addressing corporate social investment initiatives in a truly sustainable way.
We hope that mining houses will use this report to guide their corporate social responsibility initiatives and that they adopt ethical principles that will be central to how they do business. We also hope to empower government in addressing the impacts of mines and to empower local communities to play a more active engagement and monitoring role.
Executive Director of the Bench Marks Foundation