Corporate Social Responsibility and development: marketing functions?

These days, most large mining companies have highly publicized Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies. CSR is a lofty term that promotes the recognition of social and environmental concerns. Unfortunately, many companies adopt this discourse to boost their image, while their practices on the ground remain irresponsible. A study revealed that 78% of human rights violations committed by mining companies over a decade were attributable to companies that had a CSR policy.

Development… for whom and at what cost?

Generally, the mining industry highly emphasizes the economic development arising from by their projects, whether it is a matter of job creation, the construction of new infrastructure, or the income generated for the host country of a mine. “Development” is presented as an undeniably desirable objective and is used to justify the mining projects despite the damage to the environment and human health that has been observed. This rests on an assumption that any investment automatically leads to positive development, regardless of the circumstances and the type of industry. But is this true?

We often emphasize the fact that mining megaprojects result in the development of infrastructure (roads, dams and hydroelectric systems, ports, etc.) that benefit the entire economy. Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources stress the benefits of this type of contributed assets when selling their projects.26 In reality, the infrastructure resulting from the private sector megaprojects are rarely thought to profit the most marginalized local populations. The link between infrastructure and development is far from self-evident.27 The mining industry also congratulates itself on generating job creation where it conducts its large mining projects. However, mining jobs are not always given to local workers, and when they are they present major risks for the health of workers, For a few years of employment, workers and community members face much longer term harm. Companies use multipliers to calculate, based on direct employment, the number of indirect jobs generated by a mining project. On this matter, OXFAM has warned that these numbers are sometimes manipulated and fixed to obtain a much larger – and more impressive result – than reality.28

Economically, the mining industry does not generate major benefits for national governments or local communities. With a contribution equal to $7 million USD to the government and the municipalities in 2012,29 the mining industry in general represents less than one per cent of Guatemala’s GDP and is far from being a gauge of sustained economic development. In its report, OXFAM came to the conclusion that in Central America the mining industry does not provide a substantial benefit to the local economy, but rather disrupts and weakens it.

The mine simply extracts a non-renewable subsoil resource, and then it packs up and leaves. The social and environmental costs linger for a long time, and the profit derived from the extraction of these metals does not lead to significant community or economic development in the host country.

  1. Sites web de Tahoe Resources, page « Corporate Social Responsability » et site web de Goldcorp, page « Responsible Mining ». 

  2. Banque Mondiale, rapport Transformation Through Infrastructure, Issues and Concept Notes, 2011, en ligne : http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTSDNET/Images/5944693-1241627660763/Infrastructure_Concept_Note.pdf 

  3. OXFAM America, rapport Metals Mining and Sustainable Development in Central America, Thomas M. Power, 2008 

  4. Direccion general de mineria de Guatemala, Anuario Estadistico Minero 2012, en ligne: http://www.mem.gob.gt/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/ANUARIO-ESTAD%C3%8DSTICO-MINERO-2012.pdf