Barrick Gold Corporation [Barrick] is a leading international gold producer, with a portfolio of 26 operating mines and nine advanced exploration and development projects located on five continents, and large land positions on many prospective mineral trends.
The following viewpoint came from the Barrick Gold Corporation 2009 Responsibility Report
In 2010, Barrick is focused on meeting production and cost targets, completing projects on budget and on time, and maintaining our strong financial position. These are all very important priorities; however, how we achieve these goals will be just as important as reaching them.
Over the past year since joining Barrick, I have met with a host of stakeholders – investors, government officials, our own employees, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and suppliers. Listening to them has provided great insight into many of the broader trends that are affecting the mining industry.
We are seeing increasingly high public expectations of how companies should conduct themselves. There is also greater scrutiny of the mining sector by critics, NGOs, communities, governments, and other stakeholders, especially in developing countries. This is coupled with calls for more reporting, accountability, and legislative oversight of the mining sector. We see similar trends in project financing, where a major part of the discussion now focuses on social and environmental issues.
Mining, as an extractive industry, has a significant impact on the communities and environments where we operate. In order to mine, we must disturb land and use both energy and water. Our operations can also have a social impact on local communities, for example through resettlement or shifting social dynamics. I believe our efforts and innovative approaches in managing and mitigating these impacts are making all the difference, as we generate meaningful benefits for our host communities.
Responsible Mining is central to our way of doing business at Barrick. It is also vital to the future of the mining business.
Only by operating in a safe and socially responsible manner can we maintain our license to operate and ultimately be successful as a company. Success requires a commitment to a safe workplace, environmental stewardship, respect for people and communities wherever we operate, and conducting our business practices to the highest ethical standards.
Perceptions of our performance are first shaped at the community level, where we have a strong track record. Along with jobs and training, our community programs and partnerships with reputable NGOs have brought improved education, health services and economic development to many communities. In some of the most disadvantaged parts of the world, these programs are creating the conditions for accelerated economic and social development.
Whether it’s by developing a skills training program for local communities in the Dominican Republic or by providing small scale farmers in Tanzania with access to new markets, we are supplying real benefits to the communities where we operate.
Going forward, we are improving the effectiveness of our community programs by creating a Social Management System that combines our existing guidelines and other tools into a single, streamlined system. We are also in the process of implementing formal grievance mechanisms (or locally suitable alternatives) at each site according to Barrick standards.
On the environmental front, we have set our sights on strengthening our performance on a global scale. Barrick works from a foundation of compliance with all domestic permits and laws and builds from there.
We are in the process of fully implementing the company’s environmental management system at all operations and projects and gaining regional or site ISO 14001 certification by 2011. On issues such as water conservation or mine closure, we have developed environmental standards that set out best practices and clarify what the company requires of our operations.
We also set ambitious targets for ourselves. Along with better reporting procedures, our goal is to achieve a 10 percent reduction in environmental incidents over 2009. Taken together, these environmental performance commitments are about positioning Barrick as a leader in our industry.
In 2009, we completed a risk assessment to identify and address the business risks associated with climate change, while continuing to improve overall energy efficiency.
Based on this assessment, in 2010, Barrick is implementing a global climate change standard at all operations. And we continue to strengthen our company-wide focus on water conservation, adopting new engineering techniques and pioneering practices that reflect the latest thinking in our industry.
Our commitment to the health and safety of our employees remains as strong and unwavering as ever. Keeping our people safe is job one. Our strategy in this area focuses on continued implementation of the Courageous Leadership program, along with additional initiatives, such as company-wide driver training and risk procedures, tools and training materials. In 2010, we are aiming for zero fatalities, a 10 percent reduction in lost-time injuries, and a 15 percent reduction in total injuries.
Our overarching commitment to responsible mining is also guided by Barrick’s code of business conduct and ethics. Therefore we are working to maintain and strengthen the ethical culture of the company with additional ethics training programs for employees.
Simply put, we want every employee to feel 100 per cent confident that the right way to do the job is always the ethical way.
Many of the key sustainability related risks to the company are tied to compliance. A fundamental aspect of responsible mining is making sure that every location is fully compliant with all permits, laws, regulations, and company standards. A spill or a lapsed permit can leave a site at risk of government action, fines or even shutdown. Likewise, if we fail to address the social and economic needs of the communities surrounding our operations, we risk losing our social license to operate.
However, our values demand that we don’t stop at basic compliance. We aim to be leaders in responsible mining.
At Barrick, our continuing challenge will be to ensure each of our 26 operations adhere to the strict global mining standards and international obligations set out by organizations and agencies such as the International Council on Mining and Metals, the International Finance Corporation and the Global Reporting Initiative, upon which this report is based.
Barrick is taking the right steps to proactively address the range of issues we face as a company and within the mining sector. Industry leadership doesn’t require perfection. But it does require a willingness to always try to improve performance.
I am especially proud of our people, who are bringing a commitment to continuous improvement to the workplace everyday.
They are making it possible for Barrick to be the business partner and employer of choice for governments and communities around the world. By managing our issues and setting increasingly high performance standards, we are creating a competitive advantage for Barrick now and for years to come.