On May 13, the terrible accident in Soma, Turkey, again brought mining to the headlines. Unfortunately, these occurrences are commonly linked to unacceptable loss of life. As a communicator, working in this complex global industry, I am faced with some challenges that are universal to all business communicators and some that are sector specific. We now share an adaptation of a piece I published earlier in the year in the Euromines newsletter on a publication by ICMM, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Brunswick. This is an invitation to all IABC members to share their own experiences with us. If you work in the mining sector, do these observations resonate with you? If you work in a different industry, do go through similar challenges? This article is an invitation to have a conversation.
Mining and communications
Mining provides the materials needed for development and upkeep of our modern lifestyle. For those of us working in the industry, these are undisputable truths. Yet, experience tells us that conflict around mining is increasing, communities are not all convinced a mine in their backyard will benefit them.
For mining companies simply sharing information is no longer enough. They see the business need for on-going two-way communications and aligning their messages, attitudes and behaviours around transparency, responsiveness and engagement. From senior leadership to front-line workers, the reputation of a company is built one action and word at a time and easily crumbled. How are they getting there? How are the global leaders in the industry adapting its structures to better deal with multiple global information networks?
These questions motivated the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Brunswick to partner in a research project last year – Changing the Game: Communications and sustainability in the mining industry
The publication captures 25 interviews with mining executives responsible for stakeholder engagement or communications in 15 mining companies. They shared with us success stories and lessons learned.
In Mongolia, for example, Oyu-Tolgoi has embraced the digital dialogue connecting with local politicians, journalists, government officials and the general public through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They use the data collected from online interactions to guide their communications investment and relationship-building activities. In Chile, Codelco has implemented a 45-minute response time to all social media enquiries. In Indonesia, Newmont invited local influencers to visit their operations for a week. Participants left with a better understanding of the business, its challenges and its contribution to their country.
Building on those conversations and their own experience, the authors identified five trends that are shaping how mining companies organize, manage and execute communications with stakeholders:
- creating an environment for effective stakeholder dialogue
- using transparency to build trust
- integrating communications to enhance sustainability efforts
- enhancing internal communication and corporate culture
- measuring impact.
Each of these trends is illustrated by a case study and quotes from the interviewees. The report also offers ten examples on how mining companies have successfully used communications to mitigate risk and enhance their sustainability efforts.
This is just a starting point. Communications is ultimately a local craft, built on the bricks of culture and language. So I invite you to take a look, question the suggestions in the report and give us your expert feedback.
The complexity of the environment in which mining companies operate, force us to be courageous in our approach and iterative in our solutions.
Communications is a vehicle to bridging the trust gap that we have all experienced at one time or another. When I am asked whether engagement might be too risky, I now quote one of our interviewees: “in mining operations the biggest risk is under engagement”.