Dr Patricia Makhesha, Ivanhoe Mines Executive Vice President, Sustainability & Public Affairs, and Ivanplats Executive Chairperson said, “As a South African, I take great pride in the work of my fellow citizens in developing Platreef into the world’s next great platinum-group metals, nickel and copper mine. Our unwavering focus is to build the project as a showcase for responsible mine development and to be a leading advocate for corporate social responsibility in South Africa.”
“Working together with our partners in the Bonega Community Trust, the Ivanplats and Aurecon teams have made an excellent contribution towards creating significant, sustainable, and positive impacts in the twenty communities surrounding the Platreef Project.”
About the Bonega Community Trust project
Ivanplats, Ivanhoe Mines’ 64%-owned subsidiary, is developing a large-scale, mechanised underground platinum-group elements, nickel, copper and gold mine in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Ivanplats’ Platreef Project is a Tier One discovery by Ivanhoe Mines’ geologists on the Northern Limb of South Africa’s Bushveld Igneous Complex, the world’s premier platinum producing region.
As part of its community outreach, Ivanplats established an umbrella trust aimed at promoting community projects and development in partnership with twenty surrounding communities. In 2018, Ivanplats appointed Aurecon’s Communication and Stakeholder Engagement team to determine how best to consult with communities and the most affected individuals, in order to identify projects that will result in community-initiatives and sustainable development.
Community development in South Africa faces a variety of challenges. Historically, companies have rolled out projects without community consultation. Lacking a solid understanding of what communities need, these projects do not succeed in promoting sustainable development or having a meaningful impact on community members. Particularly within mining communities, people often grow disillusioned and hostile towards companies with the predominant feeling being one of fear that the company will extract their resources, damage the environment and disturb their livelihoods.
“Violent protest action, vandalism and a freeze on development is often the result, which kick-starts a cycle of despondency. To overcome this project’s challenges, which also included factors such as language and cultural barriers, as well as political instigators who wanted to derail the process, we used a groundbreaking approach to community engagement,” says du Plessis.
Building trust within the communities
Using the ABCD (Asset Based Community Development) approach, which is based on the premise that “nobody has nothing, everybody has something”, Aurecon and Ivanplats set out to learn more about the assets and skills already within the communities. The project team started by engaging in various committee meetings and discussions with the tribal authorities. With their blessing, the team engaged the community.to gain a better understanding of the area and build trust with community members.
The year-long project included over 60 focus-group meetings held in 20 communities, 8 000 enumerator surveys, as well as workshops and committee meetings. The team was able to identify sustainable, community-led projects in every community, and give people their dignity back by teaching them they were not destitute and needy, they had assets that could be turned into sustainable business opportunities.
“We delivered a report that met the Bonega Community Trust’s requirements and included a unique digital knowledge database of the surrounding communities. We also succeeded in forging relationships with local people and helped to equip them with skills that can be used beyond the Asset Mapping process,” says Amelia Visagie, Aurecon Manager, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Project Lead.
One unique feature of the project was the attempt to address gender-based and other kinds of inequalities prevalent in communities using an all-inclusive strategy for engagement. Existing cultural structures among the communities place heavy emphasis on older male decision making, influence and leadership.
In a respectful manner and without any intent to undermine cultures, the team empowered women, especially younger women. As a result of this approach, most communities will have women project champions running initiatives in their communities. All genders, ages and religions were treated equally and were made to feel included.
“Vulnerable groups and community members who felt they did not have a voice were made to feel important and part of the process, as we ensured they knew their input would be part of decision making. The process united the community in a spirit of togetherness. We would like to thank Ivanplats for entrusting us with this successful project,” concludes du Plessis.