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Rohitesh Dhawan: Exploring a Better Future for Mining Communities

Written by Josh Bryer

In the last 25 years, the number of mining-dependent countries (MDCs) has increased to 34. These 34 countries are home to 30% of the world’s population, including 450 million people who live on under US$2 a day. And because MDCs will be key producers of the metals and minerals needed for a better, low-carbon future, it’s absolutely critical that these communities are included in any conversation about ethical exploration.

Nobody is more aware of this fact than the President and CEO of International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM), Rohitesh Dhawan: a man who is passionate about the transformative power of mining, particularly in emerging markets. He calls it “mining with principles”:

“Mining with principles is the promise we make to our stakeholders that in the process of mining we will do everything possible to maximise the benefit to society of the operations of mining and the products that are so essential to the lives we lead, and we will minimise the possibility of harm to people and the environment.”

So under his dynamic leadership, ICMM has published a set of practical tools called the ‘Building Forward Better Framework’ — with the aim of building and maintaining positive relationships with local communities and broader society, in alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As Rohitesh goes on to say:

“Mining-related activity affects local communities and often takes place on Indigenous land. The industry has a critical role to play in creating lasting positive impact for those affected… ICMM’s social performance tools are available to the entire industry. They will… integrate social performance across the business and contribute to the organisational culture required to consistently avoid harm and deliver business and societal value.”

One key area of focus for Rohitesh is the ICCM’s skills initiative: a 15-year plan to equip communities with the skills they need to thrive, regardless of what mining looks like in the future. It’s Rohitesh’s enlightened view that the mining industry can help to reduce social conflicts, rather than cause or inflame them.

“While issues between mines and host communities vary greatly,” continues Dhawan, “We are learning that the earlier and deeper social experts are engaged in the process of mine planning and design and at every stage of operations, the greater the chance is of having a positive relationship.”

With this in mind, Rohitesh works closely with The Partnering Initiative and Business Fights Poverty, to foster closer collaboration and engagement beyond the mining sector and help drive real change, especially in the developing world where mining has the potential to unlock a huge amount of positive future development.

ICMM’s own research backs up the intent of this joint mission. After analysing 41 social metrics, grouped under 12 relevant UN SDGs, their findings show that in the last 23 years, significant progress has been made by 75% of MDCs — who are now closing the gap with non-resource-dependent countries. Their report also found that the higher the quality of natural resource governance, the stronger the socio-economic progress that was made.

It’s startling then, that in a recent report titled “Board Rigid”, when Swann Global looked at the make-up of mining company boards listed in the UK — the global centre of mining finance — just 35 directors on the boards of LSE and Aim-listed mining companies had backgrounds in community engagement. Clearly, a lot of progress still needs to be made…

But the good news is, we’re on the right path. And it’s leaders like Rohitesh who inspire ethical explorers like Thailand-based Pan Asia Metals (ASX:PAM) to always consider the community in which they operate, with particular emphasis on goals 1, 4, 5 & 6 of the UN’s SDGs — namely ‘No Poverty’, ‘Quality Education’, ‘Gender Equality’ and ‘Clean Water and Sanitation‘. To which end, PAM proudly runs ‘The Village Scientist’ initiative, a community program helping local Thai communities with childhood education.

Because, like Rohitesh Dhawan, we strongly believe in “mining with principles”. And that Exploring a Better Future is about more than just the minerals in the ground. It’s about the good they help us unearth for the community.