Supporting environmental and social responsibility of extractive industries

The legacy of extractive industries in developing countries has too often been one of devastating environmental impact and an absence of benefit sharing with affected communities. This is slowly changing as the concept of extractive industries needing a “social license” to operate becomes embedded within the regulatory regimes of countries, the mining sector and financing mechanisms.

Over recent years, RCG has worked across the extractive industries landscape. We have supported both mining companies and civil society to promote the importance of free, prior and informed consent of affected communities as a step towards companies being more aware of, and responsive to, community concerns and priorities.

Working in areas primarily populated by indigenous communities, RCG has supported companies and impacted communities in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Bolivia and Argentina. Through clarifying and documenting community perspectives towards mining projects, RCG both advocates on communities’ behalf, while also assisting companies in their decision-making as they work to achieve a social license to operate. Outputs of these community engagement efforts have varied from companies deciding not to progress a project based on the level of community concern, to preparation of detailed work plans outlining activities sought by communities that will form the foundation for companies’ social license.

In a related effort, RCG’s Scott Rankin led an evaluation of Oxfam’s Extractive Industries Governance program in the Mekong region. The program aims to empower communities to more effectively advocate and better monitor the performance of extractive industries. It has supported development of civil society mechanisms aimed at promoting resource revenue transparency, and empowering indigenous communities to more strategically engage the extractive industries landscape. An outcome of the evaluation has been improved relations between civil society and the formal mining sector, based on their shared interest to clamp down on informal miners who mostly act outside the regulatory framework, often using and mismanaging highly toxic chemicals with subsequent health, environment and livelihoods impacts.