This year’s Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference recently wrapped up, and while the show is being described as an all-around success, for some companies it was especially noteworthy.
Take Teranga Gold (TSX:TGZ,ASX:TGZ). This year, the company was the recipient of PDAC’s Environmental & Social Responsibility Award, one of just seven awards given out at the show’s Awards Gala & After Party. Presented to companies or individuals that take outstanding initiative to protect and preserve the natural environment and/or establish good community relations while exploring or operating a mine, the award recognizes Teranga’s extensive contributions to the regions surrounding its Sabodala mine, Senegal’s first industrial gold mine.
Speaking to the Investing News Network at PDAC, Richard Young, president and CEO of Teranga, said that over the last decade the company has invested nearly $10 million in various programs in the area surrounding the mine, focusing on five themes: education, health, water and sanitation, income generation and sports and culture.
But he believes the award is a testament to the company’s unique approach to working with communities, not the amount of money it’s spent. “It’s really about the way we’ve gone about it,” he said.
Elaborating, Sepanta Dorri, Teranga’s vice president, corporate and stakeholder development, explained, “we actually lead our growth plan with corporate social responsibility (CSR). We … put CSR at the center of all our decisions in where we go and how we grow.”
That might sound complicated, but Teranga has worked hard to make CSR a daily consideration. Executives at the company participate in two weekly phone calls — one is an operations call, “which you would expect,” said Young, but the other is a CSR call. “We have all of our CSR team members … as well as the vice president, and our chairman and our CEO on that call,” he noted.
The results are impressive. Teranga is focused on developing programs that the communities around the Sabodala mine site can administer far into the future, and since setting up shop in Senegal has implemented a huge number of these initiatives.
The company invests a minimum of $1.2 million in a community social fund annually, and together with local authorities and residents decides how to allocate that money at the beginning of each year. Current work includes a market garden program that allows local women to grow food, some of which they keep and some of which they sell. “To date we have about 800 women who benefit and participate in this program,” said Dorri.
Teranga has also spent time helping locals gain access to potable water. “We have worked on water supply systems — more than 40 water boreholes to date,” Dorri noted. In addition, the company is working to reinvigorate the cotton trade in the Sabodala area, and is involved in social services programs, from education initiatives to health programs.
Moving forward, Teranga will continue to advance the CSR programs it has in place in Senegal, and will begin to look at bringing them to the other West African areas where it operates. According to Young, the company has projects in Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire that it plans to begin developing as it continues to produce at Sabodala and explore in Senegal.
“What we’re really looking to do is take the lessons learned and the strong partnerships that we’ve got in Senegal into Burkina Faso and ultimately Cote d’Ivoire,” he said.
In closing, Young had a few words of advice for other mining companies interested in establishing themselves as socially responsible operators.
“You’ve got to start from the top, it’s the tone at the top. It’s the senior management group,” he said. “Our board understands … that we are guests in the countries in which we operate, and that we must earn the right to operate in those jurisdictions.” Young added, “we can only thrive and be successful … if we earn the trust and support of our stakeholders.”
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Securities Disclosure: I, Charlotte McLeod, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in contributed article. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.