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Ivanhoe Mines: Mining with a conscience

When Ivanhoe Mines started copper concentrate production at its Kamoa-Kakula mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in May this year, it was not only an economic boost for the country but rather it was also the company’s first step towards producing the world’s ‘greenest’ copper.

Group Sustainability Manager JASMINE ABRAHAMS tells GERARD PETER that this is part of the company’s ongoing initiatives to become a global ESG leader in mining.

In addition to Kamoa-Kakula, Ivanhoe Mines is also developing the Platreef project in South Africa and the Kipushi project in the DRC, as well as exploring for new copper discoveries on its Western Foreland exploration licences, in close proximity to the Kamoa-Kakula mining licence. While ESG compliance is now fast gaining momentum in the mining sector, for Ivanhoe, mining in an ethical and sustainable way has always been top of mind. It is for this reason, Abrahams explains, that the company has appointed a Sustainability Committee that deals with matters related to sustainability and ESG.

“The focus starts at board level and then filters all the way down to each one of our projects who have dedicated sustainability teams working on them. However, even though we have standalone functions, we regard sustainability as a multi-disciplinary responsibility for all employees,” she states.

It is with this in mind that the company has implemented sustainability KPIs for employees. For example, KPIs for the Kamoa-Kakula engineering department include conducting repairs to water wells in villages and fixing the roads in nearby communities. Abrahams states that while it is important to have a policy in place, it is equally important to have employees buy into the company’s ESG vision. “One of the ways we are achieving this is through launching an employee portal that deals with various components of ESG every month such as human rights and climate change,” she adds.

Furthermore, Ivanhoe Mines’ ESG policy and actions are aligned to six key United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are viewed as the blueprint for a sustainable future for all. These six SDGs are eradicating poverty, ensuring quality education, access to clean water and sanitation; responsible consumption and production; taking action to combat climate change; and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

Meanwhile, the company has made good inroads into ensuring that it reduces its carbon footprint at Kamoa-Kakula. “We are currently utilising hydropower at the mine, which is sufficient for the first phase of mine production,” explains Abrahams.

“We’ve signed an MOU to refurbish Turbine Five of the Inga 2 hydropower plant and this will then power our subsequent phases of development at Kamoa-Kakula. In addition, we have also started discussions with manufacturers to supply an electric fleet which will reduce emissions at the mine.”

A long-term approach to socio-economic development

No doubt, the development and operation of Ivanhoe Mine’s projects will lead to much-needed socio-economic development in the countries where it operates. In addition to job creation, communities also stand to benefit from improved infrastructure, water supply, educational programmes and local business opportunities.

Abrahams points out that the company is keenly focused on local procurement and the development of local enterprises. “Our model for enterprises provides assistance both financially and from a development and business support perspective, however, the loans afforded to these enterprises are repayable to ensure that these business owners adopt the correct business approach and philosophy, as well as to enable these funds to be utilised again to help incubate/support other enterprises. One of the programmes that was affected by COVID-19 was the training of local enterprises and suppliers, mainly due to challenges around engagement, however the support to local businesses did continue notwithstanding the pandemic.”

When it comes to community upliftment projects, Abrahams states that Ivanhoe Mines takes a long-term approach to any initiative. Before embarking on any such project, it carries out a sustainability assessment to identify community needs and to ensure that a project can be self-sustainable in the future.

One initiative that has seen tremendous success is a MiniChess tournament that the company sponsored at the Motshitshi Primary School in Mokopane, South Africa. The initiative was rolled out at the beginning of 2017 with the intent to increase the learners’ cognitive skills in mathematics

and other learning disciplines. The programme has been making a significant difference in the learners’ educational experience as they are more enthusiastic about their lessons. “We have also noticed zero absenteeism on days when chess games are played and learners’ maths and English marks have also improved because of this initiative,” adds Abrahams.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a delay in implementing some initiatives, Abrahams states that company has no intention on scaling back on any of its ESG programmes. “For example, we have allocated US$8 million to ESG at Kamoa-Kakula over the next five years. Furthermore, it is very important to ensure that we have a social licence to operate. Our aim is to leave a legacy. That is to change the negative perception that people have of mining and to be viewed at good corporate citizens,” she concludes. 

Gerard Peter
Gerard Peter is a content creator and media strategist with more than 23 years' experience in new and traditional media.