Country focus – Guinea
Medina Camara, a community member and employee at the Siguiri mine in Guinea
PILOTING A COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP MODEL
AngloGold Ashanti operates the Siguiri mine in Guinea. The concession is an area of almost 1,500km2 in a relatively remote location in the north east of the country, approximately 850km from the capital, Conakry.
The mine is located in an area of significant potential for gold production, and has been a traditional area of artisanal mining for hundreds of years. Local economic activity is closely connected to gold mining. Given this context and the various challenges that AngloGold Ashanti has experienced in operating the mine, we recognised that for our long-term business sustainability we needed to develop an approach to manage the operation that targets value creation beyond orebody extraction and addresses the needs of the broad range of stakeholders within the region.
The Millennium Development Goals
In 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. This pledge became the eight Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. In September 2010, global leaders recommitted themselves to accelerate progress towards these goals.
The approach that has been developed aligns our sustainability-focused activities with a local development plan based on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This focus on the MDGs will anchor AngloGold Ashanti in measureable development objectives while addressing key environmental and social opportunities, threats and liabilities that are a direct result of our operations. We intend to achieve this while continuing to meet all AngloGold Ashanti’s sustainability and regulatory commitments at a national and international level. The outcomes envisaged are expected to contribute to maximising tangible community benefits and enhancing measureable development outcomes in the communities where we operate. The implementation of this approach presents an opportunity for AngloGold Ashanti to actively engage with stakeholders and to do so in a way that includes participatory planning with stakeholders to strengthen collaborative relationships.
In operating at Siguiri, AngloGold Ashanti faces three distinct but interdependent challenges:
- Low levels of economic development The Siguiri region has little economic activity beyond mining. There is a high level of dependence on gold mining with limited access to alternative livelihoods. The challenge for AngloGold Ashanti is to play a catalytic role in facilitating socio-economic development driven by government, civil society organisations and individuals around our mining operations.
- A strong culture of artisanal mining or ‘orpaillage’ which is endemic to the region. This form of mining is labour intensive and is largely carried out with little regard for workers’ health and safety or environmental impact. In terms of the mining licence agreements in place at Siguiri, artisanal miners are permitted to mine on the concession, provided they do not work in areas which are actively being mined by the company.
- Growth in the numbers of artisanal miners operating around the concession, with a significant number of immigrants arriving in numbers from surrounding regions as a result of economic conditions including the high price of gold. This causes significant disruptions and safety issues for the operation.
In addition to concerns relating to safety, health and environmental management, these factors present a significant security issue for the operation. In 2011, the number of arrests for trespassing in our active working areas doubled and continues to increase. Operational management has continued to address the problems, but social and leadership structures within the community are in flux and have proved difficult to interpret and factor into community relations and engagement activity. For example, local government structures which were traditionally seen as a channel for communication with local communities have not functioned effectively. Despite the operation’s efforts to date, engaging with structured associations and the local government has not resulted in the desired outcomes and there is an opportunity for deeper engagement and dialogue with a broader and more diverse group of stakeholders.
Added to the above, the region is geographically remote from national government structures. A newly-emerging democratic government faces multiple challenges in social and economic development, and Siguiri is one area on a long list of priorities.
This complex, dynamic and increasingly challenging situation in Siguiri meant that it was a prime candidate for the development of a new approach to operating, both for AngloGold Ashanti and for the region. In accordance with the sustainable development framework developed for the business as a whole, this new approach emphasises community engagement rooted in reliable operating processes that address:
- Environmental and social impacts;
- Improved community relationships;
- Co-investing in communities to meet the MDGs;
- Partnering with local communities to identify, design and implement initiatives that benefit both them and the mine;
- Strengthening government capacity, local empowerment and the ownership of development plans; and
- Mobilising and diversifying AngloGold Ashanti contributions to local development plans which currently include the government, international donors, NGOs, individual and other private sector contributors.
This project is still in its development phase and only process steps, rather than solutions, have been mapped to date. However, we remain optimistic about the opportunity that exists at Siguiri to develop an operation that can create value for all stakeholders and become the blueprint for how AngloGold Ashanti should engage successfully with local communities in the future. The approach being piloted at Siguiri is scheduled to be replicated and scaled-up at other business units within the region over the next two-year period.