By A/Professor Natt Pimpa
International mining is one of the most significant global industries. The growth of international mining industry is evident. Academics and other social ourganisations, however, still question the roles of mining multinational corporations (MNCs) from countries such as Australia or The US in the host countries, mostly developing nations in South East Asia, Africa and South America. The dialogue on relationship among business, government and community regarding sustainable development from international mining industry remains critical.Current debate on the contributions of mining MNCs from Australia, in the form of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the host countries, is one of the most critical issues of government and international business.
Described as an ‘almost truism’, CSR by most international mining MNCs is perceived as a set of taken-for-granted ideas within society or institution but requires further attention among stakeholders in international mining industry. Unfortunately, not all stakeholders can be incuded in the developmental process by mining MNCs.
It might be fair to claim that mining MNCs in developing countries contribute to economic growth and opportunities and, perhaps, better quality of life. However, we still wonder if mining MNCs can offer supports to improve some chronic socio-economic conditions, such as poverty, inequity, environmental degradation, or poor health, in the host countries.
Mining MNCs often operate in areas of developing countries which are characterized by limited governmental presence, a high incidence of poverty, a lack of basic social infrastructure, and other social and political problems. Financial assistance from mining MNCs alone to such countries – some $2.5 trillion has been provided in the last 50 years – has often not helped the neediest of citizens. In fact, it may have worsened their plight by sustaining corrupt or otherwise inefficient governments which contribute to their misery, by leaving nations with mountainous debt.
Clearly, mining MNCs have the unmatched power and competence to work with various other stakeholders on socio-economic issues in the host countries. Increasingly world opinion, as well as the inclinations of their own managers and staff, urges mining MNCs to use that power more effectively and fairly. However, mining MNCs lack a vehicle to make that transition in a sustainable and legitimate way.
From the international business perspective, their involvement in development issue is limited due to a lack of clarity regarding their role, altruism for development, and the absence of detailed exploration of the links between socio-economic issues and mining MNCs. There is an acute absence of research at the level of mining community in terms of the role mining business can perform in social issues such as child labour, prostitution and human trafficking, corruption or poverty alleviation.
A study by a research team at RMIT University pointed that it is crucial for Australian mining MNCs to engage with local and international stakeholders in the host countries when executed strategy to ‘contribute’ back to the local community. More importantly, women must be a part of this picture. Engaging with local and international stakeholders in the host countries is one of the crucial steps by Australian mining MNCs. Occasional interaction with the local communities and stakeholders, persistent reliance on International Governmental Organisations (IGOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and considerable autonomy by Australian mining MNCs in the allocation and decision-making of various social projects in developing countries have lead to the failure to identify committed partners, engage them in authentic dialogue, and learn from each other.
Several economic empowerment programs for women and girls conducted by mining MNCs, IGOs, and NGOs have degenerated into global ‘charity’ rather than serving to build local and sustainable community entrepreneurship development. Some of them have faild to support long-term development among women from diverse backgrounds.
Although it can truly be difficult and time-consuming to revolutionize from business strategy to developmental strategy, we can argue that international mining industry can drive social change through their business operations. With political and technical support from various local and international stakeholders in international business, Australian mining industry will be able to act as a key change agent in some socio-economic problems in the host countries. Ethical mining industry is the way to go.