The launch of an Australian mining initiative, which supports aid and environmental organisations in developing countries, has been welcomed by Oxfam.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard unveiled the $127.3 million Mining for Development Initiative program, which consists of the creation of the International Mining for Development Centre, as well as a Community and Social Development Program which supports groups that provide social and environmental responsibility in developing countries.
According to Oxfam director Andrew Hewett, with around 300 Australian companies operating in Africa alone, the program is timely.
"Mining is a challenging industry. The speed and scale of development, scarcity of resources and high commodity prices have caused an appetite for risk, and increased business in emerging economies and weak governance zones,” Hewett said.
“We need to ensure mining-affected communities have an opportunity to participate in decisions that will impact on their day-to-day lives. It will help companies put people before profits, by supporting not only improved technical expertise, but also a greater understanding of the social impacts of mining.”
Hewett went on to say that the program’s support for communities will have a major impact.
The launch of the program comes as BHP Billiton chief Marius Kloppers calls for more social responsibility from companies.
Speaking in Melbourne, Kloppers stated that miners usually "seek affirmation in our share price that what we do is right, but I think we’ve got to turn that around, we need affirmation from our communities that what we are doing is the right thing," the SMH reports.
He added that mining companies should think about the potential for ‘social good’ in every dollar they spend.
We want to create a more profound inter-linkage with communities, engage those communities more in supplying our businesses and make sure those communities benefit from our presence,” he said.
On top of the commitment to this community support program, the Government is also providing funding to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a program which sets a global standard for managing revenues from natural resources, requiring miners to publish what they pay to government and for governments to publically announce what they receive.
"The government’s continued support for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) will promote revenue transparency and help ensure mining revenues contribute to essential community services like health and education," Hewett stated.
The International Mining for Development Centre is partly run by the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute.