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Holding the Mining Industry Accountable for Health and Safety Practices


Holding the Mining Industry Accountable for Health and Safety Practices

As the demand for natural resources increases, Zaheera Soomar shares an always-relevant article on health, safety, and corporate responsibility in the mining industry. 

I recently presented at the DRC Mining Week Digital Event on a new “modus operandi” for health and safety in mining. There was some good dialogue and I have had multiple follow ups and conversations since on an organizations responsibility. Thought it would be good to share some views on this.

In the past few weeks alone there have been various health and safety incidents in the news. Despite the extractives and industrials industries existing for centuries, with focus on health and safety and a host of advanced H&S measures in place, people are still getting injured and dying. Covid-19 has certainly added its own sets of challenges to the mix, with mining companies having to make decisions on keeping mines open, having minimal operational presence and ensuring the safety of those that continue to work. One of the main implications that faced the mining companies was health and safety in general of their employees and host communities, and whether its a factor of their mining operations or not – but more importantly – what their duty is in this time. Despite what we all might hope for – this is not a one off: there will no doubt be other phenomena and risks as the global operating environment becomes more volatile with increased risks relating to climate change, pandemics etc. As a result, mining and other companies are re-evaluating their role around health and safety, not just from an employer perspective, but from a human rights and ethical perspective!

It is fair to say that Covid-19 has placed a spotlight on the need for more ethical business practice and a higher standard to aim for across industries. Mining is indeed, one of the sectors that has seen some of the more extreme examples of unethical or questionable business practices (mining accidents, damage to water supplies, exacerbating or complicity in gender-based violence, resettlements of communities) – there is no shortage of scrutiny and negative press in the mining space. Alongside this, the expectations of people and regulators are rising and there is a fairly pervasive view that business is not doing enough. There is immense public and media scrutiny of business, with real separation being drawn between the wheat and the chaff, and there are signals that businesses are embracing ethical principles for the longer term. This raises the question – What is an organizations responsibility to their employees, stakeholders and the broader community?


Key points include:

  • Ethical principles of popular sovereignty, property and land rights
  • External stakeholders
  • Ethical decision-making

Read the full article, Rethinking health and safety in Mining – what is an organizations responsibility?, on LinkedIn.