The Evolution of Environmental and Social Responsibility
At Newmont, we often discuss what we need to do to keep our company strong – not just for the next few years, but for generations to come. Inevitably, we return to this fact: our viability as a business depends on our ability to develop, operate and close mines in a manner that provides shared value for the company as well as for the communities that host our mining operations.
It is essential for Newmont to deliver strong financial returns on our investments. We can only achieve this shared value by:
- Creating and maintaining high standards of performance for protecting the environment;
- Safeguarding the health, human rights and well-being of our employees and communities; and,
- Creating sustainable, long-term economic and social opportunities in the areas where we operate.
The story of environmental and social responsibility (ESR) at Newmont is one of innovation, evolution and a constant, long-term effort to be an industry leader in how we engage with local communities and act as stewards of the environment. We hold ourselves to standards higher than what the law requires. We recognize that the collective environmental and social consciousness within society continues to increase along with mining industry performance expectations.
Environmental and social practices in the mining industry have undergone a tremendous evolution over the past three decades. The concept of “responsible mining” was not in the vocabulary of the industry 30 years ago. The prevailing view at the time was
that mining was essential and society needed to simply accommodate the industry because of its importance. In subsequent years, this perspective has been debunked.
While mining is still viewed as an essential industry, it also needs to assume responsibilities for protecting human health and the environment. Mining must create shared value with the communities that host mining operations. Newmont’s Values were established with this understanding in mind, and we strive to demonstrate leadership in social responsibility and act as environmental stewards.
As recently as the late 1980s, operating responsibly simply meant complying with established laws and regulations, which were solely focused on environmental protection. Often, these regulations were not what we would consider today as scientifically sound. As the science studying environmental impacts progressed, so have regulations and industry best practices.
In the late 1980s, it became more common to approach mining from a life-cycle view to understand how to integrate design, construction, operation and closure of mining operations. During the 1990s, the science behind environmental protection helped our practices evolve into lined tailings dams, water treatment facilities, and highly efficient and effective air pollution controls. We no longer prepare for the “25-year storm event,” but instead, prepare for the 100-year storm, or even the 500-year storm.
In the past, most of the laws in place were focused on environmental protection. There was little focus on the social aspects of our business. Community development consisted primarily of building additional housing and schools to support the influx of people employed by the mine.
Society’s expectations changed in this area, mirroring the evolution in expectations for environmental protection. Rather than expecting the industry to simply build a school or police station, society began seeking evidence that our presence in an area directly benefits surrounding host communities – an idea Newmont has termed “shared value.”
As our stakeholders have become more organized and well informed, they have begun to demand assurances that we can provide community development that improves the lives of people living near our operations.
Today, Newmont participates in several global initiatives and codes of practice that establish standards and ground rules for strong environmental, social and ethical performance across the mining industry. Most of these have been developed with input from many stakeholder groups, including some of our harshest critics. Participation in these external initiatives improves our transparency, builds credibility with external stakeholders and positions Newmont as an industry leader.
This innovation and evolution will continue into the future, as environmental standards and the concept of shared value with local communities continuously shifts to meet the needs of our changing world. The concept of transparency and the issue of global climate change are examples of this evolution in action. These issues have grown in importance over the last several years. They have become two of the key themes and challenges driving Newmont’s ESR efforts.
What does not change is the theme of personal responsibility. Each and every Newmont employee has ownership of our performance in social responsibility, environmental protection and safety. While the definitions of these terms will change, a constant in the future will be the importance of each individual at Newmont in accomplishing these goals.