JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Diversified miner Anglo American CE Mark Cutifani says the global mining industry has, for the most part, been able to show resilience amid the pandemic and provide assistance to communities beyond what governments in many jurisdictions are able to do.
In conversation with Deloitte Africa senior partner Andrew Lane on the first day of the virtually-hosted Mining Indaba, he said mining companies in South Africa, particularly, have had extensive experience in dealing with health issues and already had processes with communities under way to help with management of human immunodeficiency virus.
That experience, coupled with a great sense of collaboration already present in the South African mining industry, as facilitated by the Minerals Council, has helped the industry to respond collectively and effectively amid the pandemic, he pointed out.
“The existing cooperation that has been in place with the mining industry, government, communities and other players made a big difference to the industry’s readiness in dealing with Covid-19,” Cutifani stated.
For example, he pointed out, many mining companies in Africa have helped their surrounding communities connect to electricity, water and food supplies, which has involved making use of existing ties and connections, while the mining industry’s Covid-19 response in the UK has been more disjointed, compared with African countries’ industries.
Cutifani mentioned that people were seeking leaders in this time of crisis who are able to do things differently and react quickly to changing needs. “As a global mining company, we were [also] able to leverage from practices and responses developed in other countries and apply it in South Africa, for example.”
He added that community members were seeking leaders who could provide guidance and support, such as in pursuit of getting access to personal protective equipment.
“We have connected better than ever with our communities in the last 12 months. In many ways, people are seeing for themselves that mining companies can get involved in a whole range of things, and build better relationships on the way.
“We have over the last few years re-imaged mining to improve people’s lives, but the pandemic has given that purpose new meaning,” Cutifani highlighted.
Responding to how Anglo American views the changing global landscape, Cutifani said climate change would bring about shifts in demand for certain commodities, which is positive for some and not so much for others. He said that being in a good place for those shifts was something the company had given a lot of thought to.
At an organisational level, Cutifani said the pandemic has shown the importance of thinking divergently. He explained that the “pandemic” had been on the company’s "risk register", but much lower than it should have been, it turns out.
“Covid-19 has provided us with a new way of thinking about risk and managing the unknown. When we talk about environment, social and governance issues, it is in moments or crisis that a company’s values and purpose comes to the fore. For us, the pandemic has reinforced our broader role in society.
“As an industry, though, we are still not doing as much as we can with local communities, but this time has showed how important it is to connect with them.”