This article was originally published in Mining Journal in September 2020: OceanaGold, leading social performance in gold mining

With mining companies facing increasing regulatory requirements, growing distrust from communities and scrutiny from investors around the way environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts are managed, it is crucial for the industry to understand what good social performance is and how to implement it.

OceanaGold is open about its commitment to responsible mining, managing impacts, and contributing to communities and society more broadly.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in November this year, the company applies robust ESG practices across the business, with its performance recognised by the major ESG rating agencies, ranking in the top five globally in the gold industry.

In 2019, the World Gold Council launched the Responsible Gold Mining Principles – a set of 10 principles that establish clear expectations about what constitutes responsible gold mining across key environmental, social and governance issues in the gold mining sector.

As members of the World Gold Council, and with a seat on the Board, OceanaGold is among some of the world’s most forward-thinking gold mining companies, with a focus on the future for the industry.

Sharon Flynn, OceanaGold’s Executive Vice President & Head of External Affairs and Social Performance, said, “our multinational portfolio contributes to economic growth, employment and skills development. Our approach to sustainability is to build a positive legacy, delivering value throughout and beyond the life of our mines.”

“These societal outcomes are inextricably linked to the way we manage our operations and invest in sustainable, industry-leading practices at OceanaGold,” Ms Flynn said.

The importance of partnerships

Demands for more transparency and engagement are not going away.

“Mining companies must respond by acknowledging the concerns of stakeholders, being transparent in their operations, and by engaging with humility and openness with communities,” Ms Flynn said.

“It is vital to forge innovative and sustainable partnerships with local suppliers, governments, community groups, industry leaders, education providers, technology partners and NGOs.”

Social performance management

OceanaGold has an External Affairs and Social Performance (EA&SP) Management System. The system provides a framework to understand and manage how the company’s activities affect the communities it operates in and societal expectations for how it should operate.

“To do this, companies require the right set of skills, expertise and an organised professional approach based on sound methodologies,” Ms Flynn said.

“The EA&SP Management System helps us identify how we impact the communities and societies where we operate, how we can work to align our operational performance with local aspirations, values and culture, and how we should behave as a company and as employees.”

The EA&SP system in action

A social change assessment conducted at OceanaGold’s Didipio Mine in 2019 collected data to inform the mine’s future community focused operational decision-making. The project was key to better understanding the past, current and future impacts of the operation and to enhance OceanaGold’s social performance.

The assessment, which involved 14 barangays (villages) around the operation, identified and analysed the social changes that have occurred since mine development began in 1992 and how the changes are perceived by local stakeholders.

The assessment collected qualitative data through case studies, focus groups and in-depth interviews with members of the community. The work also involved a remote sensing project that collected geo-spatial data to look at changes in the mining footprint and, subsequently, the surrounding landscapes. This included artisanal mining, access roads and forestry across the Didipio Mine’s lifecycle.

“The assessment gave us a strong dataset to better understand how the Didipio mine has changed peoples’ lives – the positive and the negative. From here, we can work to identify key areas for improvement to better align how we work with local aspirations and expectations,” Ms Flynn said.

Looking ahead

Social performance can and must be continuously improved. As a mid-tier mining company, OceanaGold has strong systems and processes in place which area testament to the company’s governance and commitment to responsible gold mining.

“The gold, silver and copper we produce are essential to economic development and societal wellbeing—from renewable energy to life-saving medical devices and technologies that connect communities around the world. But there is no mine or mining project without social impacts,” Ms Flynn said.

“Good social performance means recognising social complexity across geographic, cultural and social landscapes and understanding how the business of mining changes the way people live and work.”

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