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CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVES: When mining becomes medicine

The latest issue of "Beyond Borders", the quarterly report of Toronto's BARRICK GOLD on responsible mining, hit my ...



The latest issue of “Beyond Borders”, the quarterly report of Toronto’s BARRICK GOLD on responsible mining, hit my desk last week. It has a wealth of good reading for the snowy day that it was. But I was struck by the lack of mining news on the front page.

The featured items all concerned Barrick’s efforts to improve the health of people around the world. If someone from outside the industry saw the cover, he or she would have no clue that Barrick is a gold miner. These are the headlined stories: Relieving child malnutrition in Peru; Fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS in Africa; Promoting health education in Africa; and Aboriginal health and employment in Alaska.

From Alaska to Africa and many countries in between, Barrick has taken the initiative to improve the lives of people living near the mines it develops. It doesn’t have to do so. It could simply donate to international agencies offering the same services.

But Barrick wants to lead, not ride along, so it puts considerable time, effort and money directly into the towns and villages near its operations. Around the world it focuses on ensuring healthy communities dealing with their diseases, nutrition, dental care, education, employment and business opportunities. The company considers this work a necessary part of earning its social licence to operate.

Barrick’s efforts are far from the paternalistic gestures of the last century. The goal is sustainable development. That means mines that are developed with a reclamation plan in mind. That means communities that have the skills to support themselves after the mine closes.

Every mining company should be as socially aware and active as Barrick. Yes, it takes a commitment of time and money not always available to small companies. The juniors might do well to support NGOs and agencies that have complementary social agendas. But it costs nothing to make the decision to broaden your own awareness and that of your employer.

Issues of “Beyond Borders” are available at www.Barrick.com in the Corporate Responsibility section.