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Can global mining companies meet society’s expectations?

The RMI Report 2020 is a an evidence based assessment of 38 large-scale mining companies across 780 operating mine sites around the world accounting for 28 percent of the world’s mining activity by value of production. Major global mining companies are part of this cohort.

IndustriALL Global Union, which participates in the index, is concerned at the research report results, which cover six thematic areas of economic development, business conduct, lifecycle management, community wellbeing, working conditions and environmental responsibility.

The report comes at a critical time for a global mining industry facing harsh criticism over its conduct relating to recent environmental and tailings dam failures, human rights conduct, labour and working conditions conflicts, climate change and Industry 4.0 adaptation and mitigating measures etc. threatening its social license to operate.

The report is even more concerning given the mining industry’s critical role in providing the much-needed critical minerals to transition to a low carbon economy. It just cannot be business as usual. The industry needs to move from commitments to systematic implementation i.e. track, “review and act to improve the effectiveness of their actions on EESG issues” more than ever if it is to avoid the “SDG greenwash” tag made in the report.

IndustriALL Global Union is very worried with the performance of mining companies on the working conditions thematic area, particularly on occupational health and safety. It is a damning finding that there is very little evidence of companies tracking the implementation of health and safety strategies and plans developed in collaboration with workers’ representatives let alone that only a few companies demonstrate a significant level of engagement with workers’ representatives on the identification of occupational health and safety risks.

“We want mining companies to abandon rhetoric and commit to improving health and safety and working conditions, including respect for the right to to organise, collective bargaining and freedom of association, including tracking and acting on wage levels to meet or exceed living wage,”

says Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.

“Given the uncertain future for mineworkers in the face of the twin challenges of climate change and the future of work, it is imperative that the mining industry not only commit to consultation and engagement with workers and trade unions but identifies and implements strategies to minimize and mitigate collective redundancies when downsizing/suspending/automating,”

says Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL mining director.

Photo of Randfontein mine, Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Paul Saad, Flickr, Creative Commons

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