By: Gerardo Del Real
I recently spoke with Almaden Minerals CEO Morgan Poliquin about the Ixtaca project, its robust economics, the exciting exploration potential and the value proposition. You can read that here.
During that interview Morgan and I didn’t touch on the unique approach Almaden has taken towards earning its social license. Almaden believes that educating and investing in the community from the staking stage is essential to earning the community's trust.
Transparency and education have been pillars of Almaden’s approach.
Below is a brief outline of a few of the initiatives Morgan, Chairman Duane Poliquin and the Almaden team have undertaken.
Below is a brief summary of Almaden’s approach.
A Model Educational and Community Engagement Program
Almaden Minerals was known as one of the most respected project generators up until the past few years when it decided to isolate the Ixtaca project and spin out the remaining assets into sister company Almadex Minerals (TSX-V: AMZ).
I advise you take a look at their website www.almadenminerals.com which not only has some of the most transparent cross section diagrams in the business but also demonstrates the many events Almaden and its supporters have contributed to in the local community.
Though there will always be dissenting voices and that dialogue is important, it's nice to be able to show a picture of a local community marching in support of the local operating company and potential mine instead of what we're accustomed to seeing.
You can attribute the same kind of "luck" that Almaden had in their Ixtaca discovery to the goodwill that Almaden has developed within the locals, that luck coming through hard work.
Morgan Poliquin wrote his thesis on the geology of the region and he should perhaps write a white paper (no pun intended) on "The proper way for resource companies to engage a community from staking through the development process".
Almaden has built additions to the local school, added bathrooms, helped improve local roads and churches, donated computers and school supplies to students and local schools and have donated over 500 wheelchairs to locals not able to walk. This is a program Almaden continues to be involved with and soon another 500 wheelchairs will be distributed in Puebla, to further collaborate with the health services in the region.
In addition Almaden offers full training and employment to the 80 plus employees working on the project. These are permanent skills learned in a world class workplace. The summer camps for kids and relationships with local schools allow for young people to regularly see the Ixtaca project through tours of the core shack and drills, exposing them to trades and potential the mining and exploration industry offers.
The educational programs include the production of a video about mining that has been shown in 40 plus schools, summer camps for kids that allow them to participate and witness first hand the reforestation program Almaden also has in place and workshops that teach them about rocks, flora and fauna. The summer camp has been going for 5 consecutive years, with more than 350 children involved.
Community engagement and education needs to happen long before anyone is looking if companies hope to endear themselves to the citizenry in a meaningful way. Almaden has gone as far as taking over 460 local leaders that include priests, teachers, doctors, municipal and state government officials and employees on tours of successful operating mines throughout Mexico.
The trips allow many their first experience to an actual mine and allows them to see how a successful mine operates and the pros and cons of each. The same vision that has allowed Almaden first mover advantage in Eastern Mexico has also allowed Almaden to recognize the most powerful tool against ignorance is an educated populace.
Below is a list of “commitments”— which can be found on Almaden’s website — Almaden has made to the people living near the Ixtaca project and in all of the communities it operates in.
• We will work to earn the trust of all people we interact with, whether they are our employees, the communities around which we operate, the governments that host us, or any other persons with whom we are involved in the sustainable development of mineral resources.
• We will respect private property and seek voluntary, mutually beneficial long-term relationships.
• We will meet or exceed industry standards for environmental protection, following the laws and regulations of the countries and regions in which we operate.
• We will educate our employees regarding environmental concerns and promote employee participation in minimizing environmental impact.
• We will endeavor to inform our communities in a timely, inclusive, honest, transparent, and culturally appropriate way throughout the life of a project.
• We will promote health, education, and local infrastructure in the areas we operate.
• We will support sustainable, community based projects that can make a positive difference to the lives of local people and assist regional development by providing training and employment wherever possible.
Here is a list of recent community initiatives the company has undertaken.
• Coordinated seven large community meetings, with total attendance at these meetings approaching 2,600 people.
• Taken a total of approximately 460 people, drawn from local communities, to visit 23 mines.
• For almost three consecutive years Almaden has arranged 35 sessions for “Dialogos Transversales”, wherein community members are invited to attend discussions with experts on a diverse range of issues relating to the mining industry such as an overview of Mexican Mining Law, Human Rights and Mining, mineral processing, explosives, water in mining, risk management, and mine infrastructure.
• Opened a central community office in the town of Santa Maria Zotoltepec, which is continually open to community members and includes an anonymous suggestion box.
• Invested in a “mobile mining module” which allows company representatives to establish a temporary presence in communities more distant from the project, and allows for those interested to learn more about the project. 37 communities in the vicinity of Ixtaca have been visited. Also, every Wednesday of the week the mobile information module stays in the center of the Municipal plaza, to answer the local population's questions about the project.
• Employed as many local people as possible, reaching up to 70 people drawn from 5 local communities. Almaden operates the drills used at the project, and hence can draw and train a local workforce.
• Initiated a program of scholarships for top performing local students, with 100 scholarships granted to individuals from 23 different communities (57 women and 43 men).
• Established several clubs, including reading, English, dancing, football, music, and theatre clubs, in order to contribute to the vitality of local communities.
• Focused on education, enabling 9,056 people to be positively impacted by our investments, such as rehabilitation of school-related infrastructure, donation of electronic equipment, and scholarships for top-performing students.
On December 12, 2017 Almaden released the first ever Social Impact Assessment for the Ixtaca project. The document is standard in the oil & gas sector but a first in the mining industry.
It is clear that along with pioneering exploration in eastern Mexico, Almaden is setting the standard for how companies looking to explore in the region should operate.
A standard that is critical and often times goes unnoticed until it is too late.
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