Community Reliance on Mining Money – Report
Wednesday, 22nd May 2013 at 5:20 pm
The corporate social responsibility programs of big mining companies in remote towns are often disconnected from community needs, reactive and ad hoc with some communities becoming ‘dangerously’ reliant on their money, according to new research.
A study by University of Melbourne researcher Dr Sara Bice has found the big miners’ well-intentioned activities can have unforeseen and undesirable consequences.
Dr Bice (formerly of ACCSR) found the CSR programs were often disconnected from community needs, reactive and ad hoc.
“Mining companies are pumping millions of dollars into certain remote towns. But as mining booms, ports expand and exports increase, these communities are facing an identity crisis,” Dr Bice said.
“Communities are often given money for infrastructure or projects they don’t want or need, while some organisations are becoming dangerously reliant on the miners’ money.
“This raises the question of whether programs to promote ‘sustainability’ are, themselves, sustainable?” she said.
The study, ‘No more sun shades, please: Experiences of corporate social responsibility in remote Australian mining communities’ is based on an analysis of five leading Australian mining companies’ sustainability reports across five years, interviews with 11 senior mining managers and the experiences of residents in two remote mining towns.
It found some community organisations in towns where multiple mining corporations maintained a presence often felt pressure to “align” with one company, while other institutions were able to “leverage companies” to achieve a greater benefit.
“The mining companies all want to be prominent in town, so certain organisations have learnt to ‘play’ one company off against another to garner funding or services,” Dr Bice said.
“And all this is going on with extremely limited, formal or third party oversight.
“Companies and communities are in complex relationships. Many companies try to do the right thing without realising that well-meaning CSR programs can create a troubling dependency over the long-term.”
The paper looks into three main questions: What is the relationship between the CSR policies set out at corporate headquarter level and their on-ground implementation? What role might local community expectations, interactions and influences play in shaping the type and nature of CSR programs offered within communities? And to what extent do these programs respond to and meet community defined needs?
“Australia’s mining companies are leaders in adopting corporate social responsibility programs, but much work remains to improve their understanding of long-term community development, including making good community program choices,” Bice said.