African Mining Network

AMN was established to develop and build relationships across Africa’s mining community, and give the world a preview of what is happening in mining in Africa.

AMN - Social governance should be part of our make-up – comment by Yolanda Torrisi

Yol headshot May 2011

Corporate values on the importance of adopting social governance principles should become a part of our DNA, delegates at a recent African mining conference were told. The argument places value on the input of local workers and community members and is a powerful model for the continent, where the legacy of the colonial powers remains.

Social governance is not to be confused with social media policies, but instead in this sense it’s part of what some call ESG or the triple bottom line of sustainability. These are environmental, social and governance criteria, or social, environmental and financial factors that projects are assessed up and success is based on.

Sustainability advocates value social input along with financial metrics, and environmental care as well as profits.

Profit, people and the planet are of importance to the models, where social input is vital to sustainable success.

Delegates at the recent Africa Down Under conference in Perth, Western Australia, were encouraged to see a social governance approach as an art rather than a public relations exercise.

Gilbert + Tobin Lawyers energy and resources partner Phil Edmands argued modern social governance needed to be part of an investing company’s DNA, not an annoyance.

Edmands said: “The most precious commodity for resource investors in Africa is certainty – and to achieve that requires the delivery of good social governance – which also helps insulate against overreach in changes to African regulatory and fiscal regimes where that doesn’t occur.”

The resource industry legal specialist argued reliance on foreign capital carried with it a risk that African nations would continue to be subordinate nations to other countries across the world. He encouraged the building up of internal sources of intellectual and financial capital.

Edmands said: “True social governance will provide a modern era context for mining investment and this should include a proper and fair division of resource rent as a critical factor. Outcomes that get this wrong won’t endure while fair division will deliver a proper social dividend.”

Economic empowerment transactions fall into social governance models, as do similar but more restrictive regimes that other nations are pulling away from as they seek to open up their economies.

Social governance values can bring improvement to other industries besides mining – ancillary services, agriculture and infrastructure development to name a few.

The approach has at its very heart a respect for people and their perspective. We as companies and resource industry operators should take on social governance as a top-of-mind principle.

As members of Africa’s mining industry and its wider communities, we must be inclusive and sensitive towards the inequities that exist in communities we operate in.

We must, as Edmands said, get the “balance right” and not only rely on governments. Instead, we must make social governance an inherent value in our organisations so we can help projects and communities to flourish.

- Yolanda Torrisi is Chairperson of The African Mining Network and comments on African mining issues and the growing global interest in the continent. Contact: