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sharing in governance of extractive industries

The Responsible Mining Index is not a responsible mining index

The Responsible Mining Index came out a few weeks ago and it’s a very interesting read and resource. It’s already helped me in my research and I am very glad for it’s existence. If you’ve not yet checked it out, do. It’s well thought through, gathers lots of information which is attractively presented and in so doing makes widely accessible useful and interesting information. So far, well done.

It is not, however, an actual index of how responsible mining companies are. The key sentence in their methodology report is this:

“RMI will not undertake systematic mine-site visits to verify the accuracy of information provided on the minesite indicators”

Translation: We didn’t actually check to see if these companies are ‘responsible’ on the ground.

I feel the problem here is self evident – if you wanted to know if I was good neighbour, would you just ask me if I played loud music late at night, or would you also ask my neighbours?

While the RMI is not 100% another example of the mining industry marking its own homework, the majority of the information does seem to come from mining companies. This is then supplemented with other information in the public domain, followed by an unspecified ‘expert review’. I’m not the only one to note flaws in the information reported. The usually sympathetic mining.com chose to run with a headline criticising the paucity of the self-re....

This is not an isolated problem. The vast majority of research and work on CSR by companies in developing countries fails a simple test: did you check if it was true? There is so much research out there which basically analyses the easily accessible data about CSR (the reports and what companies themselves produce) but does not actually seek the perspectives of those living with operations and CSR programmes in the developing world or seek to measure outcomes rather than outputs (i.e. not ‘how many people did you train?’ but ‘how much did people’s benefit as a result of the training?’). There are good reasons for this. Gathering this data is expensive, challenging and cumbersome. It is, however, critical if we are to make any kind of valid estimation of whether a company is ‘responsible’ or not. Without it, any picture we have has glaring absences. The perspectives of those who live with mining operations cannot be ignored in any objective assessment of responsible behaviour. To do so, and claim that an objective assessment of responsibility has been made, is irresponsible.

If looking at the impacts and CSR programmes of large mining companies on the ground has taught me one thing, it’s that the reports produced by mining companies selectively represent a much more complex reality. Mining operations are complicated, sprawling and dynamic affairs. CSR and community relations programmes are often also equally complicated, sprawling and dynamic. They exist in environments riddled with contradictions, conflicting interests, sharp political cleavages and, often, acute poverty. Acting ‘responsibly’ in such settings is tremendously challenging and I’ve yet to find a company that doesn’t have some areas where they fall short of the mark of being a ‘responsible’ organisation (I’m looking at you, resettlement programmes). By the same token, all the companies I have seen have areas where they have gone above and beyond what could be reasonably expected of a ‘responsible’ organisation – often without this being recognised or getting the commendation it deserves.We need an index which captures more of this complexity. And we need an index that includes the voices of those who do not work for mining companies but live with them. If the RMI could bring together all the data they already have with a methodology that included people who live with mining company operations, it would be a lot closer to being a responsible mining index.

Originally posted at: https://miningandcsr.wordpress.com

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Comment by Responsible Mining Index on June 7, 2018 at 19:53

@Tomas @Paul @Benjamin - Thank you for your feedback on the Responsible Mining Index. Verifying accuracy of information for more than 850 operating mine sites and about 150 closed mines (our scope in RMI 2018) would truly be a methodological and operational challenge. We have been mulling over this issue and discussing with civil society groups and other stakeholders how the evidence that companies provide to RMI (that RMI makes freely available to all) can be cross-checked with other sources and used by stakeholders to encourage continuous improvement in companies’ responsible mining policies and practices. Our intention is that RMI can contribute to a global shift in how information is shared between companies and project-affected stakeholders, as the basis for more informed and meaningful engagement. As iterations of the Index will be published every two years, we hope to observe a progressive normalisation of transparency on economic, environmental, social and governance issues and open data principles across the mining sector.

Comment by Tomas Frederiksen on June 1, 2018 at 16:19
@Paul - all big questions. There exists currently a range of models under which this happens - third party audits by financing institutions, most large companies have an internal system for doing this, Ghana has an AKOBAN audit system for this... So many options! I think the best system would be developed by discussion by the RMI and their stakeholders.
Comment by Paul Cisneros on May 29, 2018 at 21:57

Hi Tomas! Interesting review of the RMI. I would like to know your opinion on how to gather data that shows more of the complexity of responsibility activities and strategies. I agree with you that checking the behavior of mining companies on the ground is necessary, but there still seems to be a lack of an integrated approach to doing so. How can we do it cost-effectively? Who should be in charge of doing it? How often? What´s the best way to report on the findings?

Comment by Benjamin Clair on May 27, 2018 at 21:47

Thanks for your interesting contribution. Efficiently gathering and promoting the perspectives of those local stakeholders targetted/affected by CSR programmes --and measuring outcomes through distributed reporting-- are some of our objectives at BetterChain. As we go about it, contributions from skeptics will be invaluable and I look forward to getting in touch. 

Comment by Jenny Lander on May 23, 2018 at 12:12

Agreed. Thanks for articulating this, Tomas!

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