RESOUrces corp (afmjf)
What is your background in CSR/CSI/Sustainability and current position?
My introduction to CSR/CSI came about when hired to turn around a company that had been bought by the Mine Workers Development Agency, who were reskilling mineworkers being laid off from the mines.
The company designed and produced small business kits, which were based on the materials and markets available to the individuals or groups in the areas that they came from and were now going back to. The business kits included business training aligned to the selected opportunity, the equipment required and the first fill of required raw materials.
I am currently privileged to be the CEO of Alphamin Resources Corp. We are in the process of bringing a new mine into production in North Kivu DRC. A mine that is fundamentally changing the environment for the better for all who live there.
North Kivu is known for all the wrong reasons. Events took place here that do not belong in the 21st Century. The area of Walikale was particularly hard hit. The local economy was subsistence at best, the social fabric was shredded. Walikale itself was practically cut off form the rest of the DRC, with limited erratic road access to it. It was essentially a cashless economy, it was an area where armed groups and renegade military ruled the area, to the extent that the UN Peacekeeping force established a base in Walikale itself.
Since we have been there the UN Peacekeepers have demolished as they had become superfluous due to the vastly improved security and governance in the area. In order to build a mine we required the roads to be functional. This enabled local producers to access broader markets and traders to acquire goods from elsewhere. We have also established both banking, previously there were no banks in the entire Walikale territory and mobile phone infrastructure.
Our salary bill to locally based employees is around $1m per month. This gives them purchasing power, so that they are able to promote themselves from subsistence farming to being a buyer of basic inputs, improving the markets for those not employed by us to sell into.
What does the CSR/CSI program/effort at your company locally and/or globally look like and what are the most pressing goals you want to achieve?
Our CSR/CSI program is designed around the communities who host us proposing projects through a structure we collectively have agreed on involving democratically elected representatives proposing projects to the Not For Profit organization, the Lowa Alliance, that we collectively have established and which we will fund.
The most pressing goals are to provide market participation opportunities for as many of our hosts as is possible. These range from direct employment, through providing fresh produce to our messes (2,000 meals per day), to opportunities arising from the dramatically improved economic environment because of our mine. Ultimately, we would like to have primarily people of the area managing and operating our mine.
Do you think business can contribute to social change?
Absolutely. Businesses directly and indirectly affect society, whether it is through their products/services, procurement practices, employment opportunities, though to how they operate.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Our biggest challenge is managing expectations. Our hosts see unfathomable amounts of equipment moving into the area. There is a perception that if the company has enough capital to do this, then there should be money to fix the roads, build schools and hospitals, provide electricity and many other services that are not necessarily carried out by the government.
Our immediate hosts expect that they should fill most jobs offered and be the suppliers of all the inputs to the mine.
Our challenge is to balance providing these opportunities whilst building capacity in the community to be able to service the associated obligations that come with such opportunities.
Our initial major challenge was identifying and reaching agreement with the representatives of the communities. This area was the unwilling stage for both Congo wars, in which an estimated 3 million people were killed. This shattered the social fabric and usual governance structures. It was only with the help of a well-respected senior Catholic Priest, Abbe Arsene, that we were able to design a plan for our interactions and development initiatives with our hosts.
What would you say to a business/organization/foundation needs if it wants to start introducing CSR or Social Innovation practices?
At the outset establish who the intended recipients are to be. Then understand their needs and aspirations, before imposing an inappropriate initiative on them. Whilst being clear on the CSR objectives are, albeit modified to be aligned with the feedback from the intended recipients.
Then to execute as per the agreed plan.
How do you communicate your CSR efforts at your company to your stakeholders?
We communicate via the community representatives and our Community development team.
In your view, what’s the biggest challenge when it comes to communicating and marketing CSR efforts?
In marketing CSR efforts, avoiding the message to be perceived as self-aggrandizing, whilst conveying the program, its aims and objectives and success to date.
Communicating CSR programs to the recipients can be challenging particularly when they are remote with limited communications.
How do you address the environmental concerns that come with being in the mining business of finite resources?
We have designed our mine to comply with international best practices for environmental impact. These studies include Social impact and mitigation planning. On the environmental side we are fortunate that our process is benign relative to the norm in the mining space. We do not use problematic inputs, and we generate very few harmful by products.
The mine’s life is currently 12.5 years. This is limited due to our lack of funds to continue drilling required to define additional resources. It is my considered belief that this area will produce tin for the next 100 years or more.
However, mines do have finite lives. Having said that, the city that I live in Johannesburg, was once exactly as Bisie was. The original mines that seeded Johannesburg have long since closed. But the city remains with a raft of other economic activities occurring in it. The Walikale region will be no different.