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Diversified mining company Anglo American has reiterated its commitment to being a global leader in sustainable mining at its second annual Sustainable Development Goals accountability dialogue series.

The company’s trademarked FutureSmart Mining programme – which brings together step-change innovation in technology and sustainability – aims to use new technology to transform the physical processes of mining, and the way in which Anglo American does business and contributes to the betterment of society. CHANTELLE KOTZE writes.

Anglo American launched its innovative sustainable mining plan (SMP) in 2018 as part of its FutureSmart Mining programme.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 1, 2020

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The SMP, which was the result of rigorous and far-reaching consultation, acts as a blueprint for the company’s future in that it commits the company to a series of ambitious medium and longer term goals until 2030.

Read: Anglo to drive sustainable economic development in Limpopo

“Anglo American has integrated and aligned its SMP targets into the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – which itself comprises a list of 17 targets developed to guide global development – to ensure that every advancement made in relation to mining can be applied to development beyond the industry,” says Anglo American chairperson Nolitha Fakuda.

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“This alignment has created a common framework to allow partners and stakeholders to collaborate effectively and hold each other accountable in reaching these goals and targets.”

 Anglo American’s three major areas of sustainability within its SMP include:

  • Trusted corporate leader: Advocating for the highest standards of governance to drive transparency and trust in mining and mined products.
  • Thriving communities: Building thriving communities with better health, education and levels of employment.
  • Healthy environment: Maintaining a healthy environment by creating waterless, carbon-neutral mines and delivering positive biodiversity outcomes.

Each of the three global sustainability “pillars” comprises three “stretch” goals, respectively, that will be implemented in bespoke five-year plans at each of Anglo American’s global operations until 2030.

These plans will be flexible and responsive to an operation’s local context, priorities and opportunities, but will be aligned to the global sustainability pillars, stretch goals and targets.

Speaking at the first Sustainable Development Goals accountability dialogue series in March 2018, Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani said that while the company’s metals and minerals are the precious ingredients that enable and celebrate so many aspects of people’s modern lives; Anglo American’s role in today’s world is far greater than simply beings a supplier of physical products.

“If Anglo American is to play its part in creating a sustainable future for the world and improving the lives of all of us who live here, then we must be prepared to challenge our business and ourselves, by re-imagining mining,” he said.

Because the company’s sustainability strategy goes far beyond compliance with mining law or regulatory requirements and is rather about making a more strategic and holistic impact on the ground, Anglo American has been on a journey to better align the implementation of its SMP to the 17 targets within the UN SDGs, while also considering how it can support South Africa’s National Development Plan and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 at the same time.

Collaborative regional development

At the core of Anglo American’s plans to bring long-term and sustainable development opportunities to the regions around its operations is collaborative regional development.

The Narrative Lab director Aiden Choles explains that it starts by identifying socio-economic development opportunities with the greatest potential in a region through spatial planning and analysis.

“Collaborative regional development creates a catalyst for partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders, including community representatives; faith groups; businesses and entrepreneurs; government; academics; and NGOs.”

By creating partnerships with appropriate development experts, Anglo American is able to deliver on its commitment to building foundations for long-term, sustainable development in its host regions, far beyond the life of the mine.

According to Choles, the multi-stakeholder platform that the SDG accountability dialogue facilitates, makes visible the full scope of value that the organisation creates for society and creates dual accountability between organisations and stakeholders.

“In 2018, Anglo American was able to successfully identify a R78 billion-worth budget spend across its business units linked directly and indirectly to the SDGs. This is an increase from the R67 billion spent in 2017,” he says, noting a solid spread of spending across 16 of the 17 UN SDGs.

Moreover, Choles noted that the bulk of the 2018 budget spend aligned to four main SDGs – with 72% of the budget spend orientated towards the three SMP sustainability pillars.

These results were a good indication that there is a solid foundation from which Anglo American can start to focus on while implementing its SMP.

While the research methodology currently focuses on the inputs, such as cash spend, the methodology is being refined to focus more on reporting on the outputs and impact that the investment spend is having not only on the SMP, but also the UN SDGs and African Union’s Agenda 2063 aspirations and goals.

Sustainable economic development in Limpopo

In October 2019, Anglo American announced its partnership with Exxaro, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), World Vision International to work in collaboration with the government of Limpopo to drive sustainable economic development in the Limpopo province through a multi-sector initiative, known as the Impact Catalyst.

The Impact Catalyst forms part of the collaborative regional development programme, which seeks to create long-term economic prosperity in the company’s host communities and regions through partnerships, beyond the expected life of a mine.

Several feasibility studies and pilot programmes are underway in Limpopo, as part of the Impact Catalyst’s efforts to stimulate economic development in the region. These span integrated game farming, agriculture, agro-processing and biofuels, waste recycling as well as social project opportunities on community health.

Other projects currently in the pipeline for the Impact Catalyst include a wide-ranging enterprise and supplier development programme, which aims to create small businesses that supply goods and services to mines and businesses, and an integrative geo-spatial planning capability, which was developed by the CSIR and will be co-founded by Anglo American.