Guest Post: Ten Ways for Mining Companies to Work Better with Indigenous People

Mar 13, 2012 4:25 PM ET

Posted by Paul Klein

Why is there such a big gap between what’s important to indigenous people and how mining companies are addressing their priorities?

As a follow-up to the piece I wrote last week (see: Why the Future of Mining Depends on Social Change) I felt it was important to explore this question and to provide some direction for what should mining companies could do differently to improve their relationships with indigenous people.

I got  perspective on this issue from Joseph K. Ingram, President and CEO of The North South Institute, Kelly J. Lendsay, President and CEO, of the Aboriginal Human Reource Council, and Leonardo A. Crippa, Senior Attorney for the Indian Law Resource Center.

The context is complex. On the one hand, positive change has been made at a global level. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights was introduced in 2011, the International Finance Corporation’s Guide to Human Rights Impact Assessment and Management (HRIAM) was developed in 2010, and there is a growing recognition within the mining sector that implementing the right to free, prior and informed consent is key to improving relationships with indigenous people.

At a local level, however, the situation remains bleak. Many countries have no legislation that protects the rights of indigenous people. Many developing countries have inconsistent policies that fail to balance human rights with mining rights. In order to secure financing and a license to operate, corporations need to conduct social and environmental assessments, but these assessments often exclude the human rights principles developed by the United Nations.

According to The North South Institute, “the root of the conflict is the enormous power imbalance between communities on one hand, and companies and governments on the other”.

There’s no simple solution to this conflict. Based on input from The North South Institute, the Aboriginal Human Resource Council and the Indian Law Resource Center, I’ve developed a list of ten ideas  to help corporations have better, more inclusive relationships with indigenous people and communities.

  1. Spend time learning the history and culture of local indigenous people with the goal of building relationships and trust.
  2. Acknowledge the right of indigenous people to informed consent; engage third party experts, chosen in consultation with affected communities, to assess and verify local conditions.

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This post also appeared on the Forbes Corporate Social Responsibility blog and can be viewed here. Distributed with permission of the author.

Paul Klein founded Impakt in 2001 to help corporations become social purpose leaders and is considered a pioneer in the areas of corporate social responsibility.

Paul has helped Fortune 500 companies and other large corporations including BC Hydro, Canada Post, The Co-operators, De Beers, Hain-Celestial, Home Depot Canada, McKesson, Nestlé-Purina, National Bank, Petro-Canada, Pfizer, RONA, Shoppers Drug Mart, Starbucks, sanofi-aventis, and 3M to improve the value of their social purpose programs. Paul has also helped many leading non-profit organizations to build shared value partnerships with corporations.

Paul is a regular contributor to Forbes, has served on the Advisory Council of the Queen’s School of Business, and has been a featured speaker for organizations including the Aboriginal Human Resource Council of Canada, Association of Canadian Advertisers, Conference Board of Canada, Canadian Business and Community Partnership Forum, Canadian Stewardship Conference, and the Sponsorship Marketing Council of Canada.

Paul is regularly featured in the media as a corporate social responsibility source, was included in the Globe and Mail’s 2011 Leading Thinkers Series, and was recognized as one of America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior.