Historically, gold mining has come with a certain amount of baggage, especially in the developing world, where news stories often reflect negative environmental effects or unfair treatment of local workers, for example. Canadian companies, which account for almost half the world’s mining activities, have been working to create positive change in the industry for several years.
Toronto’s Guyana Goldfields Inc. is an example of a Canadian company that has put a strong focus on corporate social responsibility with the construction of their Aurora Gold Project.
The Aurora Gold Project, located in the rainforest of Northern Guyana, is scheduled to begin commercial production in mid-2015, with a minimum estimated life span of 17 years.
“When we started the Aurora Gold Project we wanted to develop a profitable mining site, while also taking into consideration the local community and potential environmental impact,” says Paul Murphy, Executive Vice President and CFO Guyana Goldfields Inc.
With the mine being built in the rainforest, there were concerns about regrowth and potential negative effects on the surrounding environment. To address these concerns the company conducted tests to help develop a forest reclamation plan when the mine had exhausted its resources. Efforts were also made to limit water pollution by bringing in advanced technology and cleaning practices. “After all is said and done, the water might actually be cleaner after it goes through our mine,” says Murphy.
“Guyana Goldfields is a 1 project company, which makes them a small player in the mining industry. Their efforts to develop best practices and raise awareness of Canadian expertise in social responsibility will help advance industry standards for other companies this size,” says Jean-Sebastien Charron, EDC Regional Manager. “They’re paving the way for more Canadian business in Guyana and in other developing mining jurisdictions.”
Guyana Goldfields Inc. working with the community
Guyana Goldfields Inc. also understands that supporting the local community can help solidify relationships with the local government and community partners. To do this, they have launched vocational training programs with the local university, and hired local talent from nearby Georgetown. “Ninety-five per cent of our workforce on the Aurora Gold Project is Guyanese nationals” says Murphy.
“Guyana Goldfields has really excelled in engaging a wide range of stakeholders from national organizations to local communities,” says Robert Cameron, EDC Social Specialist. “This helped plan sustainable solutions for potential impacts of the project.”
“We’re very grateful not only for the financial support of EDC through over 30 million in financing, but also for their help guiding our environmental practices,” said Murphy. “Their team helped us to conduct environmental assessments and ensure we met all international standards.”
EDC and IFC
In 2012 EDC and the International Financial Corporation (IFC) expanded their partnership to support Canadian companies in emerging markets. This project with Guyana Goldfields Inc. marks the first time EDC and the IFC have collaborated on a mining project in the Americas.
“This really demonstrates how EDC and the IFC can work together to support the development of Canadian businesses and communities,” says Charron. “We look forward to more deals with the IFC that support trade and investment between Canadian companies and developing markets.”