Greetings, ladies and gentlemen; it is good to be at this summit , and
thank you for this opportunity to speak to you.
Thank you to Adam and his team, who are driving so much
positive change in the mining sector, to the chief executives who are
joining us today, to the NGOs, investors and the miners; to everyone
gathered today, thank you for your attendance and your commitment.
Our deliberations are critically important, since we all share a common
interest – namely to improve the world we live in. To have brought
together a gathering reflecting such great diversity but with a common
purpose of shared success based on a new model of shared values,
makes today a special day.
Thank you also to Archbishop Welby for the wise words
delivered to us through my colleague and friend Bishop David today,
for bringing the contribution of faith into this important conversation,
and for opening up crucial avenues for reflection.
It’s a particular privilege for me to join you, since the Courageous
Conversations that we’ve held in a South African context have taught
me an appreciation and a respect for the complexities, the joys, the
sadness and the opportunities which come with the field of mining.
Put in the language of faith, we are faced with the task of mining for
society’s moral mineral and the morality in a mineral.
In the foundational literature of my faith tradition – shared of
course with the Jewish tradition – there is an insightful line describing
days such as this as being days which the Lord has made, days which
invite us to respond by rejoicing. A close reading of our texts reveals
that the day is fit for rejoicing precisely because impossible dreams
have been realised, historical absurdities have been overturned, a
different future is now being envisaged and fresh energy is being
poured into the project of making all things new.
The cluster of psalms in the Bible which include those words find
purpose in asking for the good, and today, in these deliberations, I
believe that we are on the cusp of a day such as that and retrieving a
purpose such as that. (Ps 118, v24) I want to suggest that part of what
we are seeking at this time, all of us together, is developing and
nurturing solidarity, that key social virtue that has in recent times
become the underpinning of engagement amongst so many varied
voices and competing standpoints.
Extending Archbishop Welby’s contribution, I want to underline
my reflection by turning to a traditional tool used by people of faith, a
tool which helps us to discern a way forward which will give a public
face and understanding to our privately-held beliefs. I am referring to
the tool of “See, Judge, Act”, which helps us to stop, stand back from
a situation and reflect on it before we take action.
The theologian, Christine Firer Hinze, has described working to
achieve solidarity as discerning “the interdependency of all peoples
within earth’s habitats” and working “collaboratively for the shared
good of all people and the planet.” She adds: “In a world of radically
unequal power and opportunities, one way towards justice and a
better life for all, is… about cultivating these practices of solidarity,
which is indeed using the power and capability of all of us.” I believe
that the tool, “See, Judge, Act”, offers us a way of looking at key social
concepts and especially at concepts that speak to the mining sector’s
contribution to this better world, with an emphasis on the sector’s
commitment to what we call “just sustainability”.
The central importance of mining to human life cannot be
overstated. Mining is quite simply a major basis for our existence as
we know it, and it behoves all of us from our various disciplines to
ensure that it works for the common good. George Orwell, the author
best known for his book Animal Farm and a lifelong socialist, once said
of mining that it is “part of the metabolism of life.” Indeed, key periods
of history are known by the minerals which dominated their ages: the
Copper Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, for example.
But as the 21st century unfolds, all of us who recognise how
mining underpins our societies need to ensure that it develops in ways
that are in harmony with, and do not conflict with, new patterns of
human thought and behaviour; that it is a welcome and valued partner
in society, accepted as promoting the common good. In our
fascinating discussions I hear people talk of the thinking of Gar
Alperovitz and Steve Dubbs about a political economy that
emphasises sustainable, economically and democratically healthy
local communities that are anchored by wealth-democratising
strategies, policies and institutions.
In such an environment, mining needs a social licence to
operate. What is a social licence to operate? It is fundamentally a
compact, an unwritten agreement, between a company – faceless,
filled with individuals who each have their own objectives and desires
– and a society – faceless, filled with individuals who each have their
own objectives and desires.
In the case of mining, the company manifests physically as an
operation; a hole in the ground, a series of tailings dams, waste rock
dumps, like in Soweto, Johannesburg where I grew up. Negatively, it
can manifest as dust and noise, and immigration of strangers into the
area. But it also manifests as employment, as opportunity and
economic activity. Similarly, it can manifest as disappointment over
broken promises, as anger over lost land, changed lives and
livelihoods. But it can also manifest as joy over improving
infrastructure and services and as hope for better lives.
Society too manifests with difficult faces. Human progress and
the potential to flourish are dependent on mining and minerals. But
social media amplifies voices opposed to mining. As the push for green
energy continues, the minerals which enable the transition become
ever more scarce and critical. Mining companies must seek out
minerals and invest in regions which are often unstable, often violent,
so the scramble for mineral-based wealth can increase the instability
Africa, my home, still suffers from the effects of colonisation,
when colonial powers built their enormous wealth through
exploitation, and then left behind fractured countries and broken
people. It has been said that we are starting to see a second
colonisation now, as the need for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and
Green Energy minerals drives exploitation again – where the minerals
and money go to the northern hemisphere to drive their green, “just”,
transition, and all that is left behind is infrastructure and development
without the means to maintain it.
The social licence teeters continuously on a knife’s wedge for the
individual mining company. To overcome this, to achieve lasting
stability, I believe the mining sector as a whole needs to work for
something more. If we are to see a more peaceful, more just, and
more prosperous world in the future, we need a social compact that
revisits the very nature of capitalism and value.
The American philosopher Naomi Zack has asked, “If our
government has broken the social contract and no longer serves the
interests of the people, can citizens have faith that they are better off
with government than without it?” She advocates that when that
happens, perhaps it is time “to shift our focus from the idea of a social
contract — between the government and citizens — to the idea of a
social compact — direct interaction and agreement among citizens
and social institutions for the common good.”
This is an investors’ conference, so why all the talk about social
compacts? Because the era of exploitative capitalism is coming to an
end as people discover increasing agency to create change, whether
through democracy, advocacy, or violence. The tightrope that any
mining company must walk in order to maintain their social licence is
increasingly tied up with whether they have a working social compact
with the communities they exist in.
At our Days of Courageous Conversation, as I listen and try to
understand the wisdom, the concerns, the anxieties, the fears and the
hopes and dreams of those who take part, I hear thoughts such as
these emerge. As I leave them with you for your reflection and
consideration, allow me to conclude by reiterating that the world
needs you to safely produce the minerals critical to life as we know it.
But to ensure that you fulfil your God-given roles, we must all work
together to find ways of ensuring positive change and to pursue the
common good so that the mining sector meets the weighty demands
of our time. On a pragmatic ending, If I have sparked a degree of
curiosity in you regarding mining the moral mineral, I offer these two
invitations, support the Investor Commission and the Global institute
launched yesterday and lastly, I invite you to one of our SA
conversations when next in South Africa.
I thank you, and God bless you and God bless the whole mining
industry and its broader communities .