Fadzai Lydia Midzi-Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association
The resource rich Southern African country, Zimbabwe has managed to attract new mining sector investors and for several communities, their wish is to see the good investment climate contributing to economic recovery.
Several companies have shown interest to invest in the Southern African country with the platinum sector expected to contribute three billion mark according to the 12 billion mining industry road map presented by the President of the Republic, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Minerals such as gold will contribute 4 billion while diamond and chrome will contribute 1 billion each. This entails increase in production by the mining companies in these sectors to meet the recommended contribution. This increase overally means an upsurge in the rate of the impacts of mining on resource-rich communities. Therefore, it is imperative for mining investors to ensure that mining communities are protected against human rights violations including protection of the ecosystem.
International standards on the other hand also encourage and promote corporate social responsibility. Standards such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) acknowledge the transformational changes that mining companies bring to the lives of host communities. IRMA highlights that it is possible to reduce the negative impacts of mining and uphold the positive impacts through conducting operations in an environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, economically beneficial and ethical manner.
The IRMA is undergoing its first third party audit in Zimbabwe and Mexico. Anglo American Unki Mine located in Zimbabwe is currently undergoing an audit which started on the 29th of November and will run till the 6th of December 2019. The Scientific Certification Services (SCS) Global Services an IRMA approved certification body conducting the Audit sent out invitations for comments to be submitted before the audit process begins. Unki Mine must be applauded for this noble move to undertake the audit. It is imperative to note that with Zimbabwe’s 12 billion mining strategy and Vision 2030 which are anchored at increasing mineral production to boast economic recovery, International standards like the IRMA and Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative if implemented can enhance development in the country. Unki’s move should be commended and this sets a good example for other investors to follow suit.
Mining operations should be environmentally friendly according to ISO 14001 to earn a good corporate reputation . Using initiatives such as Socio-Economic Assessment Toolbox(SEAT), Anglo-American Unki Mine provides their mining operations with detailed guidance on how to manage social impacts and deliver socio-economic development.
On the 23rd of November 2019, 150 Tongogara communy representatives gathered for a community engagement meeting to understand the IRMA standard courtesy of the Zimbabwe Environmental law Association (ZELA) an organisation which seeks to promote environmental justice, sustainable and equitable use of natural resources, democracy and good governance in the natural resources and environment sector The communities were drawn from local development committees, traditional leadership, local leadership, District Administrator’s office and Parliament Portfolio Committee on Mines.
Tongogara Community Awareness meeting on IRMA: Picture courtesy of Fadzai Midzi
Benefits of IRMA to The Company
- Improved corporate reputation
- Better market access for products and responsible sourcing.
- Company appearing on the Responsible Mining Map
Benefits of IRMA to Civil Society Organisations, labour unions and communities
- Being part of the responsible mining dialogue
- Improved profits for the company due to better market access which will increase fund on Corporate Social Responsibility development projects that will benefit the community and the country at large.
The step taken by Unki Mine to enhance their corporate reputation must be applauded. It is a critical act that should be adopted by investors who have to religiously ensure they adhere to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.