Acorn Notes

Issue No. 49, September 2017

Dr. Chris Anderson on the Extractives Sector

Dr. Anderson's article originally appeared on Mediators Beyond Borders International's website, and is the first in a six-part writers series on Collaboration. See Article below:

Writers Series: Part I, Dr. Chris Anderson on the Extractives Sector

This is the first article in Mediators Beyond Borders’ six-part series answering, “What would your company/industry/field, and region, look like if adversarial decision-making systems were replaced by collaborative ones?”

What would mining look like if, instead of constant conflict with external parties – brought about by adversarial decision-making – decisions were based on collaboration? I have seen both ways of operating and the latter definitely makes for better business.

Nelson Mandela once commented: If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” This has never been truer than in the relationships of mining companies with ‘the other side’ — civil society and communities.

Twenty years ago, all around the world, mining companies and civil society organizations (CSOs) were suspicious of each other and the hostility between them ran deep. That feeling lingers in some quarters today. However, many people, on both sides, have realized that overlapping agendas, particularly around environmental protection and community development, exist. In fact, now, an entire body of practice has emerged around partnerships.

In a similar vein, miners and communities have frequently been at odds over projects— at times implacably so. Multi-million-dollar mining projects have been stymied, delayed or cancelled due to local social issues. Often, too, CSOs have aligned themselves with communities against miners; construction stalemates have ensued, production has been inhibited, and at times, violence has occurred.

I paint this picture of the two having been an almost-binary, black and white opposition; and, I have to admit, that this is still the case with some companies and some activist organizations and communities. There are, however, glimmers of optimism here and there that things can be different for mutual benefit.

My experience of almost thirty years working at the interface between companies and the world ‘outside the mine fence’, convinces me that there has been a growing convergence of approaches— especially around community engagement and development. Partnerships between entities that previously were at each other’s throats, often very publicly, now abound both at global and local levels. Examples include: Anglo American and Fauna & Flora International on global biodiversity; Anglo American with Care International on HIV/AIDS at the local level in Zimbabwe; Barrick Mining and the White Ribbon NGO on gender-based violence prevention in Papua New Guinea; Newmont and Project C.U.R.E on medical supplies and health training in Ghana, Peru, Indonesia and Suriname.

Newmont’s Ahafo Operations in Ghana provides a textbook case of this partnership trend: the company has worked with, among many others, Opportunities Industrialization Centers International; Guards of the Earth and the Vulnerable; Conservation International; International SOS; Nature Conservation Research Centre; Earthwatch; as well as joint projects with government at local and national levels (the Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture, Ghana Health Service and others).

These partnering projects were not ‘greenwash’ – a PR effort to make an organization appear eco-friendly – or philanthropy. The projects addressed a problem and the partners brought funds, skills, experience and labor to bear on them. Such things were made possible not by any kind of mediation at all, but rather through a slow process of communication, relationship and trust-building, and developing bonds between key individuals in each organization. They also brought a financial benefit to the operation: in more than ten years, there has not been asingle day of production lost due to community unrest. This is in stark contrast to other mining operations which have lost millions of dollars when communities are unhappy.

Some of the widely-accepted requirements for successful partnerships between what could be seen as ‘strange bedfellows’ include: good preparation; the creation of a shared vision; open and transparent understanding and communication between partners— particularly between key individuals on both sides; being clear on risks and rewards; having an open and rational decision-making process; transparent communication, monitoring and reporting; leadership, adequate resources; and building trust as a core value.

Modern mining has also seen another trend bring previously opposed-bodies together: the growing practice of company-community agreement-making. Australia is a particularly apt case. The Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements database (ATNS) at the University of Melbourne provides details on, among other things, hundreds of agreements between extractive companies and Indigenous communities. The detailed analyses done by Professor Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh in many studies reveals the extent of this movement. Agreement-making has now become common in other parts of the mining world too: Newmont in Ghana and Rio Tinto in Mongolia. Rio Tinto has even produced a major publication, ‘Why Agreements Matter’, driven by senior corporate leadership.

These agreements are not just about money and payment benefits— though they may be motivating factors. More generally, and more importantly, agreements are about a process of coming together and building trust such that the agreement is an outcome of the relationship— not a legal document prescribing or dictating one. Formal mediation has sometimes been an important part of the processes ending up in these agreements, but building a relationship cannot be outsourced. It requires hard work, good communication and good will on both sides. It is perhaps, surprising, that the extractive sector is leading when it comes to ‘enemies’ uniting for a broader social good!

By Dr. Chris Anderson, Principal, Yirri Global LLC in Denver, Colorado, August 2017
Dr. Chris Anderson has worked as a field practitioner and senior executive in the mining industry for 17 years, with Rio Tinto, Newmont Mining, and Normandy Mining.



Acorn International LLC delivers social and environmental risk management consulting services to the extractive industries and investors worldwide. We work with local partners in over 80 countries worldwide. Use of these local specialists is paramount, particularly in developing countries, where information is often scarce, second-hand, and unreliable. We look forward to engaging in continuous improvement for the industry and building capacity with our partners.


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Issue 47 -Social Risk Trends in Mexico's Energy Industry
Issue 46 -Hi-Tech for Non-tech
Issue 45 -Culture – Understanding its Impact on Business and Community EngagementNot Too Technical
Issue 44 -Not Too Technical
Issue 43 -Myanmar – Another step in the transition
Issue 42 -Meeting expectations in human rights reporting - a delicate balance
Issue 41 -FPIC Is Here To Stay
Issue 40 -A Multi-Stakeholder Partnership in Ghana: Marine and Fisheries Management
Issue 39 -The Colombian Social Responsibility Framework: An Evolving Model
Issue 38 -Social Network
Issue 37 -A Community Look-back on Ebola
Issue 36 -Ghana and the Voluntary Principles: Implementing the Human Rights Protection Framework
Issue 35 -Inundation
Issue 34 -Colombia: Local Hiring Requirement for O&G Industry
Issue 33 -Mature and Frontier Mining Geographies: Where does Greater Risk (and Reward) Reside?
Issue 32 -Local Content in Mining: Increasing Expectations and Potential Solutions
Issue 31 -Fast Money Beware: Non-Technical Risk Due Diligence
Issue 30 -Social and Environmental Performance - Considerations for Difficult Commodity Price Environments
Issue 29 -A Window into the Opposing View - Stakeholder Concerns about Oil and Gas in Mexico
Issue 28 -Why Non-Technical Risks Matter to the Mexican Apertura
Issue 27 -Equator Principles:Drivers of Sustainability in the Oil and Gas Industry?
Issue 26 -The Transparency Tightrope: Examining UNEP’s New Access to Information Policy
Issue 25 -July 2014: Bouston
Issue 24 - July 2014: Land Tenure and Property Rights - Where Legal Compliance May Not Be Enough
Issue 23 - May 2014: 3 Things I Learned in Mexico - Non-technical Risks in the Oil Industry
Issue 22 - April 2014: Capacity Building on Stakeholder Engagement
Issue 21 - March 2014: Above-ground Facilities and Stakeholder Engagement: Deploying the 'CAC'
Issue 20 - March 2014: A Starting Point for Shared Equity
Issue 19 - March 2014: What It Takes to Run a Great Consulting Firm
Issue 18 - February 2014: Considering Human Rights - Trends and Lessons in Oil and Gas Impact Assessments
Issue 17 - June 2013: Managing Environmental Health in International Development Projects
Issue 16 - January 2013: Integrating Environmental and Social Performance throughout the Project Lifecycle
Issue 15 - January 2013: The State of Shale Play in 2013
Issue 14 - August 2012: Building Environmental and Social Governance in Host Countries
Issue 13 - May 2012: Human Rights and Business: A New Era
Issue 12 - February 2012: Extractive Industries Confront Pressure for Greater Transparency
Issue 11 - January 2012: Key Updates to the IFC Sustainability Policy and Performance Standards
Issue 10 - June 2011: Oil & Gas and NGOs: New Rules of Engagement?
Issue 9 - February 2010: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 8 - January 2009: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 7 - May 2008: Top Ten Lessons Learned About Health Impact Assessment
Issue 6 - January 2008: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 5 - September 2007: Results of web forum with our International Partners
Issue 4 - January 2007: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 3 - May 2006: Suggestions and tips for safe international travel
Issue 2 - January 2006: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 1 - November 2005: The Top 10 “unspoken" criteria for determining the success of EIAs


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