At Nevsun and ENAMCO, we made deliberate, measured strides to steadily improve our CSR performance. We remain the benchmark for responsible international business practices in Eritrea.
International standards guide much of our CSR work and reporting, from the Global Reporting Initiative to the UN’s Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, and its Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. By successfully aligning ourselves with these standards, we hope to establish them as common practise, and thus help to attract new responsible international enterprises to the country.
The growth of responsible international business is key to the future development and economic sustainability of Eritrea, bringing meaningful, well-paid jobs, training and spinoff businesses that will build the workforce and increase labour mobility throughout the country. It is my hope that the Bisha Mine’s experience will be used as a template for future business-government collaboration. Our policies ensure that workers are kept safe.
We protect the precious ecosystems of the country while engaging in natural resource extraction. And, by maintaining transparency in our financial transactions with the State of Eritrea, we publicly demonstrate our commitments to poverty alleviation, food security, community infrastructure, social welfare, and education.
Our CSR achievements in 2015 were many. In the area of human rights, we completed an audit of the impact assessment, which examined the progress of our human rights program, and identified new and emerging issues as we make the transition to zinc extraction. We also trained the security forces in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. (Mine security is provided by BMSC Security Forces and Binae Security.)
In corporate transparency, we significantly expanded our constructive dialogue with stakeholders around the world, including many events in public venues, in which we encouraged open discussions of human rights and CSR governance at the Bisha Mine. In 2015, the mine was visited by many dignitaries and ambassadors from the United States, Canada, South Africa, and Germany as well as the United Nations.
Our safety record continues to exceed North American industrial safety metrics, which is a remarkable achievement in the country’s first major industrial operation. Over the year, we made progress on an Emergency Response Management Plan that will result in coordinated efforts between BMSC, Nevsun and ENAMCO.
We engaged in several environmental initiatives, including hydrological studies, to ensure that the mine’s water usage is sustainable and does not compete with, or negatively affect the water resources that are essential to nearby communities and animal populations.
We worked on many projects and initiatives to help local communities. We implemented two community assistance program pilot projects in Aderat and Tekreret that will greatly assist with community water accessibility and supply. We provided job training for over 1,000 Eritreans, including those that received formal certifications. This enabled several handfuls of our local workers to earn promotions, and now enjoy greater responsibility with higher levels of pay. Because job retention remains a concern, we undertook a number of studies into workplace satisfaction, and made several changes to governance, in order to enhance workplace satisfaction at the mine.
Of course, given the realities of operating a business of this scope in this location, we face many challenges in meeting certain CSR objectives. Staff turnover, difficulty in hiring certain specialists, and operational events caused delays in implementing some programs. Our planned move to solar energy has been slower than anticipated despite repeated attempts to engage international energy providers. Financing models and perceptions of national risk have stalled the program but some recent positive progress has been made.
Looking to 2016, we remain committed to implementing our human rights initiatives. We will continue to engage with environmental studies and, as required, will modify management plans to maximize our protection of nearby communities, wildlife and the regional ecosystem, including water resources.
For Nevsun, Corporate Social Responsibility provides a key strategic advantage, allowing us to maintain our social license to operate in Eritrea. Our constructive efforts, in collaboration with our partners, are resulting in real, measurable, results.
I hope you find our 2015 CSR Report a true reflection of our Positive Results, and of our ongoing challenges in the pursuit of improved social, environmental, and economic performance at the Bisha Mine and nearby communities.
Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility May 6, 2016