At Barrick’s annual meeting this week, Barrick Founder and Chairman Peter Munk zeroed in on what ultimately makes a mining company successful: a social license to operate.
“It’s not enough to have money,” Munk said. “It’s not enough to have reserves. It’s not enough to have great mining people. It’s not enough to have a great board determined to create more production and more value. Today, the single most critical factor in growing a mining company is a social consensus — a license to mine.”
Munk emphasized that corporate social responsibility has been a part of Barrick’s DNA since its founding nearly 30 years ago. This approach has generated strong local support for its operations worldwide, including complex regions where some competitors have experienced major setbacks and project delays. Munk then proceeded to list 25 Barrick community projects, from education to clean water to affordable housing, in places like Argentina, Chile, Peru and Tanzania. While Barrick makes these contributions voluntarily, which totaled $47 million in 2011, the projects provide tangible evidence of a broader business strategy to provide economic and social benefits to communities in 11 countries.
Munk spoke passionately about the positive impact of mining, particularly in developing regions, where other viable economic activities and employment opportunities are limited. For example, at Barrick’s Pascua-Lama project, located on the Chilean Argentine border, the company received more than 150,000 applications from job seekers. Munk urged those opposed to mining to adopt a more balanced perspective. “Thousands of people are applying for (mining) jobs,” he said. “They have children and grandchildren, and they’re entitled to dignity… and that can only come by providing a lifestyle that gives them an education and income that provides that dignity.”