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Mindful Mining
Responsible diamond mining
By: Diamond World News Service
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Aug 13 2014 6:56PM
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Reference: 9428  

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There is no doubt that the shimmering stone - diamond provides employment and supports millions of people around the globe right from mining to market. But we cannot ignore the flip side involved, too. It is known that mineral mining by its very temperament does hold the capacity to crash the environment except when vigilantly handled. Due to the diamond mining methods, there is a large quantity of soil displaced from the earth. This has many corresponding affects on the entire eco-system. Apart from the environment, mining also does affect the social, cultural and economic facets of the region. Here come the biggest questions - how can sustainability be achieved for both the eco-system as well as human communities involved in mining? How can the environmental, social and economical problems be mitigated at the onset itself? The answer to this somewhere lies in the word ‘Responsible Mining’, which involves foreseeing the problems and initiating a planned mining to mitigate the issues right from the beginning along with bringing in benefits for the people involved. Most of the mining companies have realised the seriousness of this and have well initiated these plans, to explore this issue and to know in-depth about the CSR activities undertaken, Kunjal Karaniya spoke to few of the top diamond mining companies.

There are a restricted number of commercially viable diamond mines at present operating in the world, with the 50 largest mines accounting for approximately 90 per cent of the global supply. Roughly 49 per cent of diamonds are sourced from Central and Southern Africa, even though important sources of the mineral have been discovered in Canada, India, Russia, Brazil, and Australia. The mining and distribution of natural diamonds are subjects of recurrent controversy like distress over the sale of blood diamonds or conflict diamonds by African paramilitary groups.

ECOLOGICAL DAMAGE
A negligent diamond mining takes a profound toll on the environment. It can lead to soil erosion, deforestation, damaging the landscape, extinction of wildlife species which forces local population to relocate. When not careful in protecting rivers and streams from exploitation like re-routing rivers and constructed dams to expose riverbeds for mining, the devastating effects are felt on the flora and fauna, fish and wildlife. In acute cases, diamond mining can result in the entire ecosystem to crumple.

When miners leave behind thousands of vacant mining pits, the wildlife vanishes, topsoil erodes, and land previously apt for farming becomes a deserted land. These pits also create a public health disaster as when they get filled with dormant rainwater, human garbage; it gets infested with mosquitoes, dissemination malaria and other water-borne diseases. These conditions along with the atmosphere also affect the social, cultural and economic health of the vicinity.

SOCIAL, CULTURAL & ECONOMIC IMPACT
Diamond mining or any type of mining is evidently not sustainable. You dig a hole; take material out of the hole, and then leave it. Ultimately, the hole runs out of the material you were digging up. That is not sustainable!

Yet as an activity, diamond mining can be made to add to sustainability. At the outset, we identify that development is essential to eradicate poverty and to offer economic choices for people working at the mines. From the countries where they are sourced to the countries where they are polished and sold, diamonds are supporting millions of people globally.

But, the issue then remains, how do we make this development as sustainable as possible? There are few social impacts of mining as well; an unexpected inflow of money into the communities tends to generate some social tensions. Sudden shift in work patterns affects the normal social rhythms. The biggest question here is what after the mine is dried? Is mining the only job they learn and do for the entire life-time? The land if not wisely used for mining, remains no longer fertile for farming and there are possibilities of re-locating due to the environmental changes. In such case, preservation and restoration of the natural environment, to ensure that choices for future generations are preserved is a must. We tried to find this out by going in-depth of the problem and speaking to the top mining companies of the world to know how they are working towards achieving this sustainability.

Due to insufficient planning and regulation, diamond mining inflicts environmental and social mayhem. But the damage is not the inevitable result of diamond mining as there are ways to mitigate the effects and so we now talk about the responsible diamond mining aiming towards sustainability.

RESPONSIBLE DIAMOND MINING TOWARDS SUSTAINABILTY
Diamond mining is usually not as much of damaging to the environment as other types of mining, such as gold mining, as it does not make use of toxic chemicals. In spite of severe environmental risks, efficient regulation and suitable planning can diminish diamond mining’s environmental brunt. In addition, landscapes transformed by diamond mining can be reformed. Many organisations have come ahead to help restore the ecosystem at many affected places. The diamond companies too have realised that they can no longer harm and take from the earth without giving it back. Here comes into picture the Corporate Social Responsibility. We bring you the activities undertaken by few of the top-most gems and diamond mining companies in the world towards this issue.

Rio Tinto Diamonds
Jean-Marc Lieberherr, Managing Director, Rio Tinto Diamonds
Balancing social and environmental considerations with commercial considerations is a given for Rio Tinto Diamonds and we have learned from our experiences that gains are possible on numerous fronts when companies invest their time to understand the environment in which they operate, and work in true partnership with local communities and organisations to address local environmental and social issues. In other words: no blundering and telling communities what is good for them. This type of work needs to be built on regular conversations, careful observations and steady relationship-building. Rio Tinto Diamonds has diamonds mines in Australia, Canada and in Zimbabwe and Bunder project in Madhya Pradesh. These environments are quite disparate and raise very different issues in terms of their care, protection and community work.

Planning: You simply cannot expect ‘one-size-fits-all’ CSR programme to work in these very different worlds. In each case, Rio Tinto Diamonds has taken time to get to know these unique environments, their unique profile and character, their strengths and sensitivities, and to understand their impact on the lifestyles, livelihoods and overall well-being of the communities that live in and around them. Before we commence any project we carefully research the expectations that the public has from us and the issues of concern. We do not always have the skills to address these issues and one way we overcome this is by working in partnership with respected community, environmental and non-governmental organisations. Rio Tinto currently has about 20 such global partnerships.

Health
At our Murowa mine and developing Bunder mine sites, which are located in areas of significant disadvantage, we run programs to address broader community health issues that impact on the wellbeing of our workforces, such as the high prevalence in these areas of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Community outreach programs in these locations are designed to build awareness of how these communicable diseases are spread, decrease the social stigmatisation for sufferers, and encourage more people to get tested.

Nature
On the environmental front at our Diavik mine in north-western Canada, water is considered a precious resource, despite the northwest region having an abundance of lakes and rivers. It is especially important to Aboriginal people, as water provides habitat that is critical to their traditional lifestyles. Here, programs are in place to ensure that no pollutants enter Lac de Gras, the large lake nearby. A fish palatability program works with local communities to assess the ongoing health of the fish in the lake and to ensure there is no negative impact on their texture or taste. Diavik is also working with Canadian universities on research assessing the effects of mine blasts on fish.

Economic
At our Argyle mine in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia we have worked closely with the traditional owners of the mining lease areas, developing participation agreements to ensure that their interests in the land are respected and that current and future generations benefit directly from the operations of the mines. We have set in place training and business development programs to improve the skills base of local communities and support the growth of self-sustaining businesses. In addition, we have a commitment to improving community and social infrastructure for indigenous communities, supporting local education and health projects and establishing scholarships for students.

Social
Whilst our developing Bunder mine in Madhya Pradesh has not yet been built, we have been actively consulting with local communities to ascertain how a mine might improve their quality of life and have been developing community programs in areas of identified need such as health, education, improved water resource management and sustainable agricultural practices. In close partnership with on-the-ground providers, we have funded initiatives to help empower local women to improve their future prospects and those of their families, including child health and nutrition programs and training programs to help women take advantage of employment opportunities at the mine. Like our other mines, Bunder is fully committed to employing local people wherever possible and providing training to help them avail themselves of these new economic opportunities.

Overall, Rio Tinto Diamonds puts an extraordinary amount of effort into devising ways to fulfil our public commitment to operate in a corporately responsible manner. It is simply the way we do business these days, he wraps up perfectly to the point.

De Beers Group
Lynette Gould, Spokeswoman, De Beers Group
Safety has always been a priority for De Beers and we have a fundamental commitment to zero harm. All our mines and some exploration sites are certified to OHSAS18001 standard and are audited internally and externally on a cyclical basis. We are working in a number of areas to standardise and improve our approach to safety including a focus on leadership, initiatives to prevent potentially fatal risks, enhanced safety risk management, and learning from past incidents. 2013 was a year of safety improvements for De Beers with no loss of life incidents and a reduction in lost time injuries.

Nature
We are committed to maintaining an environmental management approach that matches the world’s leading mining companies. We define best practice for our operations through our six Environmental Standards covering life cycle planning, biodiversity, water, climate change, pollution prevention and environmental reporting and these standards are mandatory for all De Beers operations.

Health
Optimal employee health is essential to the effectiveness of our operations, and to the well-being and participation of our employees in their local communities. During 2013 many of our operations conducted comprehensive wellbeing assessments such as nutrition advice, physical fitness and chronic disease surveillance. Our strategy for wellbeing also includes a focus on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. For our operations in southern Africa, the prevention and management of both TB & HIV remain priorities for the wellbeing of employees and their families, the continuity of our business and for continued development in our producer countries.

Social
De Beers relies on local communities for many things: skilled, educated workers; a local supply of goods and services, and access to shared resources like water and land. Education, health and employment are key priorities for all of the communities we engage with. Our in-kind services include community access to mine-supported services such as schools and hospitals. For example, Debswana operates fully funded hospitals at Orapa and Jwaneng Mines, which serve as district hospitals, and provide essential public medical services to mine employees and the surrounding communities. At Orapa mine, the mine hospital provided essential health services to more than 76,491 patients in 2013.

Economic
Investing in skills development and capacity building within our communities is an essential part of supporting economic development that will last beyond the life of our operations. Skills development programmes mainly focus on education, enterprise development and preferential procurement within local communities. We also operate investment funds to promote enterprise development such as the Namdeb Foundation in Namibia, De Beers Zimele in South Africa and the Tokofalaenterprise development programme which launched in Botswana in 2013.

Social and Labour Plans
In South Africa all mining companies must submit 5 year Social & Labour Plans (SLPs) to the government before mining or production rights are granted. The SLPs aim to ensure that mining companies contribute to socio-economic development through job creation, infrastructure, education and health investment, HIV/Aids programmes and small business development. During 2013, De Beers Consolidated Mines distributed $4.72 million towards 18 SLP projects in South Africa.

Impact Benefit Agreements
The Impact Benefit Agreements (IBAs) in Canada are formal community investment agreements with First Nation communities and other Aboriginal groups in the vicinity of our mines. The IBAs require De Beers to invest in a range of community programmes to ensure that mining delivers tangible benefits to Aboriginal communities such as education and training, support for Aboriginal culture, environmental protection and, where appropriate, financial compensation. In 2013, delivery continued against four IBAs relating to the De Beers Snap Lake Mine in the Northwest Territories, and three relating to Victor Mine in Ontario continued in all totalling $5.23 million. Agreement was also reached with the Government of the Northwest Territories regarding the socio-impact agreement for GahchoKue, our JV project with Mountain Province in the Northwest Territories, as well as an IBA with the North Slave Métis Alliance.

ALROSA
Evgeniya Kozenko, Spokesman, ALROSA
Although Russian mining and manufacturing companies pay a great deal of attention to their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), they do not face the same challenges as companies working in countries with poor human rights records and inadequate labour safety legislation. Russian legislation is in line with the Kimberley Process (KP) requirements.

ALROSA’s social policy is implemented in close cooperation with Profalmaz, the inter-regional trade union of company’s employees. We recognise employees’ right to voluntary associations and freedom of negotiations.

Underground mining operations and construction are the areas of high industrial risk. For example, while performing underground mining operations, supplementary special activities of gas regime are mapped out and the passports for faces, drilling and blasting operations, as well as emergency response plans.

Nature
ALROSA develops comprehensive programmes to improve the environmental situation in the long-term period and coordinates them with the Ministry of Nature Protection of Yakutia. More than 4 billion rubles were spent for environmental protection measures in 2013, which is almost four times higher than the corresponding costs in 2012. The company constructs the environmental protection facilities, renovates the sewage treatment plants, and reinstates the disturbed lands. It also maintains the Live Diamonds natural park and launches fish in ponds in the areas of the company’s operations. The company’s divisions also use water both in ore processing and for household needs. To reduce the consumption of fresh water, we use recycling and reverse water supply, the volume of which in 2013 exceeded the fresh water intake by 10 times. This also helps to eliminate the discharge of pollutants into water bodies. Pollutants are discharged into water bodies according to set standards only from WWTPs of towns and villages. To reduce the negative impact, the company carries out reconstruction of existing and construction of new sewage treatment facilities in areas of its operations. Drainage water of open pits and mines is transported to reinjection sites and pumped back into underground aquifers and perennial frozen rocks. About 97 per cent of production and consumption waste created and disposed of by the units comprise mining waste (waste rock and tailings). This waste is considered virtually non-hazardous. The remaining waste is either reused in the own production or transferred to specialised organisations for use and disposal.

Health
The company spends approximately 5 per cent of its revenue yearly on various social programs, including health security for its employees and their families and the support of retired employees. To provide workers with skilled and specialised medical help, a comprehensive health program is being implemented. In 2013, the expenditures under this program amounted to 239.9 million rubles. Within the program, contracts with more than seventy leading medical and scientific medical institutions of the Russian Federation and Yakutia were concluded.

In order to protect the health of workers, the organisational structure of the new ALROSA unit, the Medical Center, was fully built in 2013. Since January 1st, 2014, the Medical Center includes dispensaries in the towns of Lensk and Mirny, as well as in the village of Kempendyay.

The investments in social programs totaled more than 3 billion rubles in 2013, one-third of this amount has been spent for health care activities. o The company also supports the delivery of food and other essential products to Yakutia, which has limited resources and accessibility due to its harsh climate.

Future
o ALROSA and Profalmaz Trade Union jointly implement measures aimed at assisting redundant workers with new employment. The company helps them to master new skills using the internal personnel training and development system.
Here is a good example. In June, the company launched the Udachny underground mine in Yakutia. It was built to replace an open-pit mine which is going to be closed in 2015. Now ALROSA retrains employees from an open-pit who have desired to work at the underground mine. And the amount of employees will grow along with production volumes of the mine.

In 2013, the company invested about 122 million rubles in employees’ professional growth and training.

o By providing financial assistance to the districts (regions) of Yakutia in maintaining their agriculture and the traditional way of life and organizing charity actions for the children, the company helps to maintain the employment of local residents and their higher income.

o In order to support the local population, as well as to provide opportunities for recruiting and retaining employees for their businesses in remote regions, the company makes regular donations and helps local hospitals and other social institutions. The Group also subsidises retailers, agricultural complex enterprises, canteens that serve the local population and the goods supply chain in Yakutia in general.

GEMFIELDS PLC.
Dev Shetty, CFO, Gemfields PLC.
We have undertaken a big programme of mine exploration, wherein, we have drilled about 30,000 meters of core drilling. Due to this we have been able to delineate about four large ore bodies which have a potential to become independent open pit or underground mines in themselves. Therefore, due to the company’s professionalism, the future of the workers is secured for not less than 50 years as of today and this is a continuous program taken up by the company under its R&D project.

Nature
o We have an ongoing programme of continuous rehabilitation which involves in-pit dumping, and this helps to keep the size of the main operational pit to a minimum by mining using a strip-and-fill method, which means that as we strip the high-wall, we fill the exhausted footwall with the waste rock from the high wall. The continuous rehabilitation also extends to dump rehabilitation which sees us dump top soil on disused dumpsites, flatten it and plant indigenous trees on it. To support this, a nursery has been developed on-site where saplings are grown.

o The waste water resulting from dewatering of the pits is pumped to a settlement pond from which the overflow, free of any suspended solids, is discharged to the environment. An environmental license for this is awarded by the Government of Zambia.

o Dust generation is kept to a minimum by use of water bowers which uses water discharged from the pit – helping the environment two ways – 1. No additional water is consumed from a river for dust suppression. 2. Water discharge to outside environment is kept to the bare minimum by using the pit water. Dust analysis is conducted frequently by an independent consultant, recognised by the Government Regulatory Body.

o The treatment process employed at the Washing Plant is a simple washing and picking process. No chemicals are added. The water required for the washing plant is taken from a pond, created by the company, and the same is re-cycled in the plant. Any additional water required only is drawn from the pond created by the company, thereby conserving natural and ground water.

Health
o We provide our employees with all the necessary tools to protect them from the harm that may result from mining operations along with awareness training programs. Due to these measures and an effective safety management system, our Kagem mine site in Zambia has achieved over 3.1 million “reportable” injury free man shifts. In the month of April 2014, the Mine Safety Department of the Government Republic of Zambia awarded a certificate of achievement.

o We have medical teams with clinics on site, as well as nearby and proper emergency preparedness to handle cases. This includes fully functional ambulances with drivers on standby at all times. At least one of every 50 employees across various workplaces is first aid trained.

o Currently, the company is engaged in construction of nurses’ quarters & wards at a Health Centre within the community. This construction will consist of two nurses’ quarters with toilets and borehole, over-head tank and fencing. This will also include a 4-Ward mini-Hospital. The company is strongly partnering with CHAMP to promote HIV/AIDs awareness not only in the company employees but also in the neighboring villages.

Economic
The agriculture sector is where Gemfields are assisting the communities with income generating activities to improve their livelihoods. The cooperatives grow vegetable crops which are sold to the company at market prices. The company gives seed, fertilizers, etc. as a loan, and when the cooperatives have their produce available, they sell it to the company and the loan is also recovered.

We have supported and handed over a refurbished and upgraded Primary school and are now focused on supporting the construction of a Secondary school in the same area.

Conclusion: “Economic growth and environmental protection are not at odds. They're opposite sides of the same coin if you're looking at longer-term prosperity,” – a famous quote by Henry Paulson perfectly fits in here. Most of the natural resource mining companies have realised the importance of sustainable mining with adhering to their responsibilities towards environment and people equally.

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