Ten Ways for Cooperation With Local Mining Communities

It is impossible to relocate any mining company. This fact determines the corporate citizenship profile of many of them anywhere in the world. Bulgaria is not an exception. Here we will not just list the ways by which the Bulgarian companies collaborate with local communities. Moreover, they play a significant role in the strategic planning and day-to-day activities in the regions they operate.

Social responsibility is a certain part of the sustainable development of the whole industry, as well as of the mining sector’s philosophy. The companies have an active role and heavily invest in improvements of the environment and the quality of life, preservation of traditions, education and children, as well as in rendering assistance in cases of disaster. The professionals who manage these projects are the company’s ambassadors in these local communities.

Why do they do that?

That is the question often asked by many. In Bulgaria the public at large gives two parallel explanations why the companies do social responsibility.

First, despite the old perception, mining companies are more flexible and they listen carefully to the needs of the local people. This could be seen as the business “replace the role” of the state in providing assistance or resources without seeking anything in return. We may find some evidence in educational projects run by the companies, in fighting with the floods in 2014, where mining companies were the first to help the locals. On the other side the social relations are strongly included in all long-term plans of mining companies Thus, the quality of life of the local people grows.

The other “myth” is that through the CSR projects companies are “paying back what they took from the community”. However, this is an archaism replaced by the proactive role of the companies as a part of the community. In other words, in true partnership, the community and the mining business outline their common future in which the majority of companies exceed their legally set obligations and daily business activities with their significant social role.

Efficiency and adequacy of the social responsibility programs are rooted in the values of the companies , and in the principles they follow. The Bulgarian mining companies are mature and modern organizations, which implement best practices of the sustainable development. Here we speak about large-scale and complex programs for interaction and dialogue with local communities.

Values and principles

“We cooperate with the local Municipality of Panagyurishte by our long-term contract for social investments. The areas which we support are infrastructure, health care, education, culture, social policy, youth activities and sport” – gives an example Eng. Delcho Nikolov, CEO of the copper mining company Asarel Medet. Today, Panagyurushte is an example how modern mining industry can grow in harmony with environment protection, biological agriculture and all the other sectors.

Respect for and dialogue with the local communities are just some of the values that the Geotechmin Group follows as well. Two of the companies in the group - Ellatzite-Med, a copper mine and Geotechmin, a mine construction company – implemented a qualitative survey of the level of satisfaction of their CSR program done in the last five years. The results collected in July 2015 are outstanding: 60% of the interviewed are “very satisfied” by the programs, and the rest 40% are “satisfied”. The main benefits for the local people are the very good selection of target groups and in the effort the programs to complement and enrich the activities of the partnership organization. All programs from the social portfolio of the Geotechmin Group get 90.2% approval of its original design, professional realization, and access to the widest range of communities.

Another good example comes from Dundee Precious Metals Chelopech, which follows the principles of transparency in its day-to-day activities. The company continuously demonstrates a responsible behavior and is recognized as a model in the application of sustainable development principles. Since 2011, the company shares its performance by key indicators (business results, ecology, personnel and communities) in its Sustainability Report.

The limestone producer Ognyanovo-K embeds on a voluntary basis the CSR concept in its business strategy. “Our assumed long-term commitment is to develop our activity in an honest and responsible manner, to contribute to our economic growth and, at the very same time, to assist in improving the life of our employees and their families, the local community and society on the whole.’ – says the Nikolay Kolev, CEO.

Devnya Cement is focused on the affiliation of the stakeholders. This includes responsibility of the supply chain contractors, respect for the human rights, ecological initiatives, health and safety, volunteer and donation campaigns, products sustainability, support to local communities by stimulating sport and cultural event, career orientation of the youth.

“The preservation of the environment, together with ensuring maximum safety conditions and meaningful cooperation with local communities are at the very center of the values of our Group”, says Stefano Costa, Managing Director of Devnya Cement.

At the Maritsa East Mines, state-owned lignite mine, CSR is also bound to the values for sustainable development: “this is the way we do business.” The company assumes commitments in order to improve the standards of work, of social development, of ecology. Through their activities they improve the local standard of living. Also they have a responsible attitude to society and to institutions, as well as to any national and noble cause. Over the past few years “The Mines” have been suffering from chronic liquidity crisis, nevertheless they are the backbone of the energy security of Bulgaria.

Benefits for the community

To be a good employer with many responsibilities benefits the society too. Ognyanovo-K has a multilayer social responsibility, and they strive to meet all of their obligations: “to pay everything on time; to create new jobs; to provide safe work conditions; to enhance workers’ qualification, to develop the social sphere; to donate, including the improvement of local infrastructure.”

For many decades, Maritsa East Mines has been contributing to the preservation of the country’s millennial history. Coal mining starts only when archaeologists have checked the terrain and collected the artifacts remained from the Ancient Times. Unique findings are presented in the Museum of Archaeology at Radnevo Town where the Headquarters of the company is situated.

Big companies generate business for the smaller ones: the philosophy of all companies is to look for partnership with local firms. Thus, new jobs are created as well as additional revenues in public budgets. This process leads to many improvements in both sides. Small firms improve their quality and control systems in many of their activities. Following a guarantee for their growth.

DPM Chelopech stimulates new business opportunities fostering the sustainable development of the region, so that they could continue their development even after the mining operation ends. “We believe, that when we approach with care for people this brings mutual benefit and success to us” – summarizes Eng. Konstantina Gradeva-Vassileva, Director “H&S, environment and PR”. More than 90% of the personnel of the company are local residents. Hence, the opportunity for enhanced degree of mutual influence.

When one is setting foot in the Town of Panagyurishte, he/she can clearly distinguish the benefits to the local community from the activity of Asarel Medet. There is a perfect match between what the municipality sees as a cause, and what the company does. “The opportunities offered in our town is in no way inferior to big cities.” – adds eng. Alexander Chobanov, HR Director. Among the most notable places in the town are the hall-treasury of the Panagyrishte Gold Treasure, built by the sponsorship of the company; the new sports hall; the high-tech hospital – both are result from public-private partnerships. The town is a venue for festival tourism with its Fireworks World Championship, as well as for a variety of cultural and sport events.

Benefits for the Business

There are benefits for the business too proving that this is a two-way communication between the local citizens and the mining company. “We discover it in the recognition of our CSR culture, and the philosophy of shared values.“ – says Eng. Dobri Tsvetkov, CEO, Ellatzite-Med. “Our team and the local community are walking together in one direction because both have common values.” On that basis, the company took the 2015 CSR Award of the Bulgarian Chamber of Mining and Geology.

Benefits for the business are found in the “confidence of being a good corporate citizen and the fulfilled mission to support the sustainable development of the homeland” - Eng. Al. Chobanov adds. It is good to mentioned that Asarel-Medet is a four-time winner of the CSR Award of the BCMG.

Daniel Kiryakov
Public Relations Manager
Bulgarian Mining Chamber