Why it matters
Managing the operations sustainably requires preventing and mitigating their impact throughout the mining cycle from exploration to closure, fulfilling their commitments and becoming a more visible and effective contributor to local development. Over the last couple of years, Antofagasta has been innovative in its community engagement approach to strengthen its social licence by becoming more active in regional long-term development, based on a long-term vision developed together with local stakeholders and close collaboration with the municipalities and the government.
Each mining operation has a sustainability manager with overall responsibility for community relations including the implementation of the social investment and stakeholder engagement programmes. Engagement is through both formal and informal channels including holding regular open meetings, joint community-company task groups (for monitoring and discussing specific local development issues), use of social media and regular visits for members of the community to the mine sites.
In 2013, Los Pelambres developed a new model for community relations called “Somos Choapa” (We Are Choapa) which represented a major increase in the dialogue and involvement of the community with the Company. The Group’s operations in the Antofagasta Region also participate in local development alliances such as CREO Antofagasta.
Upset because of a long drought, in February 2015 some neighbours from Salamanca blocked the road leading to Los Pelambres demanding that the Company build a desalination plant and stop using water from the Choapa river. However, using the new engagement model, the crisis was managed by bringing together local government, members of congress and water consumer organisations, as well as the protesters and representatives from Los Pelambres. An agreement was reached after about ten days of negotiation that included undertakings by both public and private parties to address the core issue of finding short and long-term solutions to water shortages in the area.
In September, Los Pelambres began a consultation process with the Caimanes community to discuss their concerns regarding the Mauro Dam, including the flow of a local stream and other topics of common interest. The community and the Company discussed the implementation of initiatives to improve the community’s access to water, introduce additional safety measures at the dam, improve the emergency communications plan and to set-up a development fund for the benefit of the community and local residents. Considerable progress has been made and agreement on a lasting solution to this long‑standing issue is expected in 2016.
The Group’s mining division has designed and implemented a social investment programme which aims to bring sustainable business and development opportunities to the communities in which the Group operates.
Over the years these have included the:
- development of sustainable agriculture schemes, including investment in a large‑scale drip irrigation project and technical support to small farmers;
- support to artisanal fishermen at Los Vilos;
- investment in infrastructure projects to improve public areas in local communities such as in the town squares, sport facilities and schools;
- support for a number of education programmes and award of scholarships to top candidates at local schools to allow them to attend university or receive technical training;
- provision of vocational training opportunities;
- investment in healthcare facilities including completion of the first Primary Health Care facility at Alto Choapa (investment of $2.0 million);
- provision of clean drinking water through co-financing ($3 million) water towers and wastewater facilities for the towns of Sierra Gorda and Baquedano;
- provision of running drinking water for Caleta Michilla through co-financing a desalination plant run by the Mejillones municipality; and
- contribution of funds to a coastal bicycle path as part of the CREO Antofagasta master plan.
Unethical behaviour can be reported through the Company’s website, via the internet or on the telephone. All complaints will be investigated and can be made anonymously if the complainant prefers. The Ethics Committee is responsible for investigating these complaints in a timely manner and their work is supervised by the Audit and Risk Committee of the Board.
The Group also has a grievance system at all of its operations for members of local communities to express their concerns to the Company. This system allows for consultation and feedback, with grievances from local communities generally handled by the operation’s community engagement team.
By providing these different means for complaints to be made about the Company and for them to be handled efficiently, the Board intends that any contentious issues can be raised early and resolved before they develop into potentially serious areas of contention.