Conflicts with local communities over mining, oil and gas development are costing companies billions of dollars a year. One corporation alone reported a six billion dollar cost over a two-year period according to the first-ever peer-reviewed study on the cost of conflicts in the extractive sector.
The Pascua Lama gold mining project in Chile has cost Canada’s Barrick Gold 5.4 billion dollars following 10 years of protests and irregularities. No gold has ever been mined and the project has been suspended on court order.
And in Peru, the two billion dollar Conga copper mining project was suspended in 2011 after protests broke out over the projected destruction of four high mountain lakes. The U.S.-based Newmont Mining Co, which also operates the nearby Yanacocha mine, has now built four reservoirs which, according to its plan, are to be used instead of the lakes.
“Communities are not powerless. Our study shows they can organise and mobilise, which results in substantial costs to companies,” said co-author Daniel Franks of Australia’s University of Queensland, who is also deputy director of the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining.
“Unfortunately conflicts can also result in bloodshed and loss of life,” Franks told Tierramérica.
The study is based on 45 in-depth, confidential interviews with high-level officials in the extractive (energy and mining) industries with operations around the world.
“Conflict translates environmental and social risk into business costs” was published May 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). A special report “Costs of Company-Community Conflict in the Extractive Sector” based on the study is also available.
“We wanted to document the costs of bad relationships with communities. Companies aren’t fully aware and only some investors know the extent of the risk,” Franks said.
“If companies are interested in securing their profits then they need to have high environmental and social standards and collaborate with communities,” Franks said in an interview.
For the complete article, please see Inter Press Service.