Incoming Anglo American chief has turned to the Vatican for advice on community relations as he attempts to address the social complexities of Africa’s mining industry.
The Australian revealed Mark Cutifani recently paid a visit to the Vatican in an effort to better engage African communities affected by mining.
Cutifani told delegates at Mining Indaba in Cape Town that he had travelled to the Vatican two weeks ago for a meeting with Ghana-born Cardinal Peter Tuckson.
The Catholic Church supports a number of NGO’s who act on behalf of local African communities, many of which regularly find themselves in direct conflict with mining companies.
Cutifani admitted that although he hadn’t set foot in a church for 47 years but said the visit was part of an effort improve relationships with all stakeholders at a time of heightened tension between Africa’s miners, governments and communities, the Australian reported.
“What we wanted to do was listen to Cardinal Turkson’s view of the world and what we were missing as miners,” Cutifani said.
“I said to him, ‘we don’t know how to engage those NGOs, can you help us understand where we might start the conversation. We’re not asking you to be a partner, we know that’s a difficult conversation, what we’re coming here to do is to listen, and try to understand how we can engage in a different conversation as an industry’.”
Cutifani actions have been well received by South African politicians and industry leaders.
He heads up the powerful South African Chamber of Mines, and injury and fatality rates across AngloGold’s operations have fallen dramatically under his reign.
Cutifani’s address focused on the need for mining companies to work more closely with the local communities affected by mining operations, while reminding governments of the need for security of tenure.
Increased industrial action and violence last year saw government and industry relationships strained further.
Both resource nationalism and political instability in Africa have been issues of major concern for miners in recent times, but Cutifani said both the industry and government were to blame for African’s struggle to fully benefit from its rich resource pool.
Cutifani argued that the troubles facing South Africa were hyped up, citing that the country’s compounding annual growth rate since the end of apartheid in 1994 was only 0.2 percentage points behind that of Australia.
In his speech Cutifani warned that miners operating in Africa need to change their strategy and strive for increased local community engagement and support.
“As an industry we’ve forgotten those local communities, or we haven’t put the focus on those local communities like we should have. They’re the people who are most impacted by our activities and we’ve got the model wrong,” Cutifani said.
“We’ve got to tip the model on its head and start with the local communities, and get their support, because at the end of the day most governments understand the importance of the industry.”