Implementing its environment, social and governance (ESG) policies in remote regions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has presented Barrick Gold with a “golden opportunity” to improve people’s lives in a challenging region, says Barrick Gold DRC country director Cyrille Mutombo.
He spoke during a webinar on the topic of “Unpacking the importance of ESG compliance for the DRC’s mining sector”, on September 15.
Questioned about whether a perception of ESG principles is easier to apply in first world countries, as opposed to developing countries and some of the remotest regions therein, Mutombo said that, at first glance, that perception may be right, but only because applying ESG in developed countries is supported by governments having a “clear cut” set of responsibilities it expects miners to meet.
“You will have the impression that applying ESG is easier in some parts of the world, and it might turn out to be a challenge for a place like the DRC. But for [Barrick], we see this as a golden opportunity,” he said.
He pointed out that in a place like the DRC, expectations were high. “When you get to those remote places [such as in the north of the DRC], people think we are the government.”
He noted that, for Barrick’s Kibali mine, in the DRC, local communities raised issues with the company that would have been better addressed to the government. “They expect you to do way beyond what you are doing.”
Further, Mutombo said that, although the law dictates a mining company spend at least 0.3% of its yearly turnover on social commitments, the vast majority of miners spend “way beyond” that proportion.
“It is a big opportunity because at the end of the day, these places that have been endowed with these mineral resources need to benefit from it, and us as mining companies come as partners to unlock the value that is beneath that soil,” he commented.
Mutombo added that, by creating big mines, Barrick gets to create value, and all the nearby areas should be able to benefit from the values created.
“The Kibali mine has set an economic frontier in the north east of the DRC. When you go there, just with the road we built, it helped the government, for instance, improve on its security and safety just because we had better infrastructure coming in,” he highlighted.
In addition, he said the Kibali mine had built hydropower stations because the mine was too far from the national grid infrastructure and this presented an opportunity to build a power station with surplus power that has been made available to nearby communities, thereby electrifying previously unelectrified regions and improving people’s lives in the process.