Mining is a process that is composed of three major logical, organized and sequential phases; exploration, development and production with unique risks, economic considerations and constraints characterizing each stage. Before deciding to develop a mine the mining company first considers the social, socioeconomic and environmental consequences of the decision. This paper discusses the problems that the foreign mining companies face while undertaking their mining processes in a community with different culture than theirs.
The major hitches they faced mostly included; power differential, permeability and psychosocial factors like suspicion and fear between the company staff and the local community members. A Canadian gold mining company in Ghana faced these challenges during their stay in this West African country. The crises originated from language barrier and past experiences the local communities encountered with other mining firms.
Although the official language in Ghana is English the larger percentage of local residents were illiterate and were only conversant with their local dialects. This made conversation a problem as the miners could not learn those languages easily. Even with the assistance of interpreters there was distortion of facts resulting into power differences. Similarly, sections of the community were so indifferent with the mining company since the previous mining companies had negative effects to their environment and families.
Their children whom they taught were to earn their living from these mining companies were instead exploited. However, the major factors that affected the company-community relations and which also had an immense impact on how exploration activities were viewed by this community included: First, the cultural diversity between modern business practices of developed countries as represented by exploration activities and traditional communities. Second, was the extreme power differential that existed in any contact between the two interacting groups.
The locals perceived the exploration activities in seclusion and with minimal knowledge of the larger picture within the mining industry and therefore they were not only uncertain but also fearful concerning the exploration activities. The local community rarely understood the risks that were associated with mineral exploration as well as the period of time required to prove the economic viability of the mineral deposits. They further assumed that a mining company would only invest huge amounts of money with a fixed time frame for advanced exploration.
The mining companies were unable to bridge these power differentials that resulted into justifiable expectations as well as fears from the locals. But the expectations were antagonistic to the reality on the ground about the mine to be developed. These communities were unable to distinguish between a major company and a junior company whereby to them these companies appeared to be equally rich, powerful and potentially threatening. Additionally, the local community feared being marginalized due to language barrier and power impermeability and wished to be given a continuous update of day-to-day events of the company.
They further expected to receive immediate answers to their worries from the company officials. Since these fears were not addressed in time by this Canadian company there immerged ill-founded rumors and misinformed messages which gained credibility within and among the community members resulting into increased fear and disquiet from the community (Ian Thomson and Susan A. Joyce 2000). This situations surrounded by fear and distrust between the community and the company severed the communication and understanding between the two giving way to outside interest groups and thus impairing further efforts for deliberations.
The experiences and the extent to which the community felt uncertain about the future impacts of mining activities mining industry led into increased suspicions. The Communities viewed the mining industries differently depending on the previous exposure to mining explorations. Members of those communities without a history of mining were naive and inactive towards exploration activities which were taking place around them since they believed that good things like job opportunities and development of the area were to be associated with these explorations as well as mining activities.
On the other hand, the responses of those communities which had an history of mining were diverse since some were willing to welcome exploration while others unwilling and instead turned hostile to the presence of foreign interest or as well as opposed a return to environmental and social destructiveness experienced in previous mining activities. Areas with small scale artisan mining were so much opposed to these mining activities since they feared being displaced, their traditional livelihoods being destroyed and alteration of their way of life within their community.
The mining company did not take time to make the local community understood well the nature of their work as well as address the hopes, fears, traditions and social norms that may result into conflict and negative consequences to all parties. However, the mining company could prevent all these from occurring by forming a community relations team whose major role would be to mitigate the impacts as well as to build a harmonious relationship based on proper handling of expectations, prevention and resolution of conflicts.
The community relations team should also be involved in incorporating the results of stake holders, mapping process, identification of Impact area and summarizing quantifiable objectives and targets based on management indicators that are measurable (Chuck F and Fernando R. 2007). Equally, the community relations programs and policies should cover local purchasing, local manpower, hiring training, land purchase and resettlement grievance resolution.
The community should be consulted in every endeavor that the industry engages in as well as collaborating with the local communities to fully understand the social cultural values and aspirations and reach a consensus on the best priorities identified by the community. 2nd Analysis It has been established that Canadian mining companies have the largest stake in the mining industry in most third world countries. Official records indicate that this stake is at 30% of all mining prospects in Africa.
South Africa too plays a huge role, it is home to many giants mining companies in Africa and consequently the largest mining company is the world DeBeers is based and headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, it has mining interests expanding throughout the world. These two companies have dominated the mining industry mostly in the third world and have over the past years been on the focus over various issues but mostly centering on their relationships with the surrounding environment and the communities As afore maintained, mining companies have strained relations with the locals.
This relation is centrally compounded by the difference in cultural dispositions and the overbearing ulterior motivates of mining companies. Profit remains the basic drive in business and the mining companies pursue it at whatever cost, many times with no consideration of the locals’ needs and priorities. An analysis of cultural interaction between the miners and the local communities must take this in to account. A look too in Latin America also produces this grim picture. Latin Americans have been up in arms over what they claim are exploitative tendencies from the mining companies.
This is the basis of analysis of the culture between the miners and the neighboring communities. The relationship between employees and the neighboring community is also equally strained and both have a rough time interacting with each other. A look at the mining culture over time indicates that it tends to disregard the community interests and the relations between the two are usually digress to a point of hostility Jacobdeen Higgins is an engineer with one of Canadian companies based in Latin America. This is his fifth month in Ecuador, having been transferred to Quito after leaving an equally lucrative job in his homeland Canada.
His relocation to Ecuador was after a promise of a hefty allowance as well as other fringe benefits. In his middle age, this is his first time to travel out of Canada and consequently his interaction with people from the developing countries. He has been born and raised in a country and a neighborhood that has not amply prepared him to interact with people of diverse backgrounds and mostly those that live with an income of below a dollar per day. This factor is further exacerbated by the nature of his occupation. He is a miner and the perception the locals in Ecuador have of miners is one of fear and hatred.
They see them as exploitative and only seeking to deflower the vast virginal and resourceful land in Ecuador. The first issue Higgins has come to grapple with is the difference in the orientation of the local communities cultures and way of life with that of Canadian miners. There exist such fundamental variations in the two cultures such that the interests between them are always at a crossroad. The first barrier and major difference that Higgins has had to cope with is the language. This however is not unique to Canadian miners in Latin America but is a problem faced by most miners in foreign lands and aggravates an already sour situation.
This is one predicament that miners tend to overlook. They do not take time to learn a few lessons on the cultural disposition of the local communities. Higgins is only fluent in English, it is his only language and beside that he can only catch a few French words. On the other hand Ecuador is a Spanish speaking country and in deed it is the official language. Besides that, there are other local dialects that would take years to learn. His company has based its operations in Napo province.
It is a territory that is laden with mineral resources, but the company has centrally for the time being focused on gold. The communities residing in Napo province are yet to come in to contact with large mining companies with such huge machines and large workforce mainly composing of foreigners. Very few too understand or speak English. The majority of the leading personnel on these mining companies do not understand Spanish or worse still the local dialects Higgins has been at pains trying to interact with local community and mostly has to employ the use of interpreters who charge exorbitant prices.
His position in the company requires him to source for laborers from the neighboring villages and small towns, in so doing the potential laborers have to undergo strenuous interviews to establish their skills and competencies. This is a nightmare he has to contend with in his daily activities. First comes the issue of hostility from the locals and then the tricky situation of the local language (www. mineralresourcesforum). Small-scale mining has been entrenched in the local community’s economic system. Artisan miners roam all over and wield so much influence in the community due to the lucrative nature of their venture.
To them, and equally to the rest of the community, Higgins and his work colleagues are foreigners and should be accorded the treatment befitting intruders. This however is understandable as the large companies pose a threat to their livelihood. To the rest of the community the miners are a threat to their lands and open hostility is only way to pass this message. Others in the same community view Higgins with a mixture of dread and awe. He drives a big four-wheel state of the art vehicle, a luxury machine and a reserve of the top government executives and rich businessmen.
He clearly does not understand the lives of the locals and does not understand why the locals are reluctant to leave their lands when there is a goldmine lying underneath. In his first days in Napo province, Higgins had been enthusiastic of this first chance to interact with the locals, however his friendly grins were usually met with cold stares and mostly harsh insults form the locals as he later came to learn from a political representative who nowadays acts as his guide just because he understands a few English words.
Communication has been difficult to a point of frustration, attempts to reward with kind words or reprimand his employees are met with again cold stares; they just cant communicate with each other. This has resulted to a situation characterized by hostility from both the company and the local community. They rarely communicate with each other beyond a point of need. Higgins is now filled with disparage for the locals. He has been unable to understand their needs and neither their hostility, to him and to the rest of the miners. The minimal interaction he has had with the locals has not helped patch this ill feeling towards them.
But for the cheap source of labor, Higgins would not wish to interact in any way. This is the notion and the perception held by both parties and emanates from the inherent cultural differences existing between the miners and the communities. Whereas miners such as Higgins are driven by personal economic motives, the locals on the other hand are wary of the miners and fail to see the long term economic benefits that may arise, they abhor the environmental degradations and social afflicts the mining will have on the surroundings and especially on their lands.
3rd Analysis This Canadian mining company has also to contend with the challenge of safety, more so, convincing the community of the appropriateness of the measures put in place to ensure the safety of the workers and the environment. The issue of communication not withstanding, safety concerns continue to bug the mining companies. It is not a secret the extent of devastation meted out against the locality of the mining operations. They leave huge dents on the surface of the earth and damage the natural habitat permanently.
The surrounding communities are aware of this and they usually fight tooth and nail to have the companies relocate their activities or demand huge compensations, which in most cases pass unyielded to. Higgins is in the same position; he stands between a rock and a hard place. The company wants to mine, explore and exit within the allocated time but the neighboring communities are unrelenting in their adamant resolve not to give way.
Miners culture has over time not demonstrated any considerations for the welfare of the environment, driven by surreptitious intentions, environmental needs take a back seat being overridden by profit maximization needs. Rarely does it have any room for plough backs directed towards environmental conservation. Being in an influential position as he is, Higgins is at the forefront in building a favorable relationship between the community and the company. He is also aware of the implications of the company’s mining operations but he is not in a position to call the shots within the management.
He has a rough time trying to make his guide understand this. He also thinks that the devastations caused by the miners are exaggerated compared to the benefits that are reaped through mining. As the guide tells him, the local community’s hostility emanates from this fear. They fear the environmental impact of the mining project, the hazards that lie in wait resulting from the industrial wastes and air pollution from clouds of dusts emanating from the earth’s bowels. A look at the vast lands in Napo province reveals an expansive land untainted by the vulgarities of modernity.
Most of the land is still in its virginal state and is characterized by uninhabited territories that remain revered and cherished by the locals. The mood on the ground is set against the mining companies operations. The vast natural habitat is a source of spiritual inspiration to the surrounding communities and has come to wither a lot of human onslaughts. To Higgins and the mining company in general, those perceived considerations do not hold any water. They are in business and will pursue their interests to the end. It is an economic venture that eventually stands to benefit the locals through employment opportunities.
Producing more benefits than the natural habitat in its current state stands to do. Mining culture is impervious to environmental hazards consideration; its eyes are on the prize and not on the sideshows. It is not in line with the local communities worries on safety in the environment. Miners are hungry for profit and the only way to maximize it is through intensifying their explorations. Higgins’ guide cannot understand this selfish drive and likewise the local community’s does not. They value social interactions and solidarity more than economic ventures.
The community is close knit and not highly commercialized to a point of neglecting social ties. The attachment with the environment is to a point of divinity. The environment is clean and the mining operations are a threat to this, they fear that it will bring pollution that in the end might result to diseases and other health complications. The safety of the environment remains the central factor. To most local communities where mining takes place, the environment is not the only safety consideration; safety within the mine is also taken into account.
Higgins has had a rough time trying to explain the safety measures put in place to ensure that his (and that of other employees) safety in the mines, but the few incidences in the mines world over that have resulted to fatalities are a prove that the unexpected sometimes happen. His guide as well as the rest of the community are convinced otherwise. The prevalent perception and notion held by the majority of the local people is that the mines are not a safe place to work in, the sight of the complicated machines and the large pits confirms this, the miners recognize these machines and the large pits as a source of livelihood.
Higgins is an engineer and understands the internal dynamics of these machines. He has operated these machines and been in the bottom of the pits for years and is convinced that they are safe. The necessary measures have been put in place to ensure this. This is the same headache facing Higgins as he tries to recruit more and more workers. The local community is adamant on the safety hazard of the mine. They claim that it can collapse any moment as a result of the spirits vexation towards humanity for destroying its habitat.
Few people are volunteering for the underground mining due to the perceived hazards. The local community is also set against this. Families, even in the rampant poverty, are willing to see their family members involved in the mining activities. Pressure is being put by the families of the young men who are in search of quick bucks in the mines, they don’t want to see them volunteering for the underground operations. The local community, according to Higgins’ guide, knows that the dust from the mine can lead to health complications that can turn fatal in the long run.
A look at the local communities cultural beliefs, practices and perceptions reveals that they are different from the mining culture. Miners are more concerned with the output and the benefits in the mines more than with the safety environmental consideration. Miners are trained scientists and rarely take a course on social relations. They do not understand the complexities of the local community and the diverse nature of their culture (Lia Bryant and Delrdre Tedmanson 2002). To them, mining is just but a renewed opportunity to make a killing.
It is important that the mining culture undergoes a major transformation to ensure that miners are more responsive to the local communities’ needs and aspirations. They should enact mechanisms through which the mining companies should plough back a portion of their profit back into the community to ensure a trickle down effect to the people on the ground. The hostility that arises between the mining companies and the locals usually is fostered by the reluctance of the miners to take time and understand the local community.
People are of diverse cultural backgrounds and have some ununderstandable attachment to their ancestral lands. This is not expected to change over night. Understanding the underlying cultural factors and language should be a prerequisite to mining activities. References Ian Thomson and Susan A. Joyce (2000-08-17). Minerals exploration and the challenge Of community relations: PDAC accessed online on 23/10/07 http://www. pdac. ca. pda/members/community/relate. pdf Chuck foster and Fernando Rivera (2007): Mining in Ecuador Hard assets investor. com
Accessed online on 23/10/2007 http://hardassetsinvestor. com/index. php Lia Bryant and Delrdre Tedmanson (2002): Diversity in the mining industry: the International journal of knowledge, culture and change management. Accessed Online on 23/10/2007 http://ijm. cgpublisher. com/product/pub. 28/prod. 241 Doctor Mthethwa, Matthews Hlabane, and Ibinini Mara: Breaking communication Barriers between communities affected by mining and the mining industry in South Africa accessed online on 2007 October 23rd. http://www. mineralresourcesforum. org/docs/pdfs/communication. pdf
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