SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES
Our projects are located in a part of the RoC where socio-economic and development indicators are persistently lower than the national averages. Consequently, our partner communities are generally poor and vulnerable. Mining projects are usually able to deliver real benefits to communities only once they enter the production phase. Notwithstanding this, we have implemented exploration and construction phase SER initiatives to alleviate some of the more pressing challenges faced in our project area.
Assisting the Communities to Collect Water
In the Sintoukola area, few have access to high quality water sources, with most people replying on distant boreholes or small streams. We have installed water boreholes with pumps in the villages of Koutou and Yanika to compliment a government-sponsored water scheme. In 2016 Kore Potash provided 288 ‘hippo-roller’ 90 litre water drums which allow the relatively easy movement of water. These were distributed to 11 villages which represents approximately 38% of households in the area prioritizing vulnerable people (handicapped), schools and hospitals, as well as large families or families living far from the boreholes. These rollers have also been used in innovative ways by local communities, with some being used to transport locally produced palm wine for sale in distant villages.
In the district of Madingo-Kayes in Kouilou, and elsewhere in the RoC, cassava crops are subject to numerous diseases that significantly reduce crop yield. To reduce this threat to a staple food source, we distributed higher yielding, disease resistant cultivars of cassava to 11 villages (763 families). Communities were supported by relay facilitators who provide education and training on how to improve the quality and productivity of their fields. For this programme Kore works in partnership with the Program for Support to the Development of Agricultural Sectors (PADEF) in Congo and we are advised by the Congo Agricultural Research Centre (IRA). This ongoing program has delivered excellent results and is helping communities generate additional income (through increased yields) and become more self-sufficient.
Local communities have long complained of crop damage by elephants – one of the challenges of supporting conservation in close proximity to communal agriculture. We are helping the community diversify their income by promoting bee-keeping. This provides additional income with a twist: elephants really dislike bees and avoid hives. Villages with bee hives in their fields are less likely to suffer crop damage from elephants. We are supporting local efforts to promote bee-keeping through training and provision of materials to construct hives.
Supporting Schools in the Area
In 2017, SPSA provided all students in the Project area with school kits. A total of 952 students received notebooks, boxes of chalks, pens, erasers, pencils and slates. SPSA participated in the construction of temporary classrooms at Koutou village primary school.
Employment of Local People
Wherever possible we shall employ from the local community. In 2017 we recruited 159 people, of which 108 (68%) were from the local communities. It is noteworthy that employment is the most common request received from communities through our village letterbox system. In each of our local villages, we erected a notice board and letter box so that we could inform communities of our activities and receive feedback from them.
Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs)
The mine site is within the Conkouati-Douli National Park (CDNP). The park is divided into a core zone, in which no development may take place, and an “eco-development” zone in which specifically permitted activities may take place, but only in strict accordance with an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process. The mine and some of the related infrastructure (like the overland conveyor) are located in the ecodevelopment zone. We have engaged local and international consultants to conduct three ESIA’s to the highest international standards. These assessments have been approved by the government of the RoC. As part of the ESIA processes we have actively engaged with NGOs working in the area, including the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and HELP Congo and Renatura. We have consistently included the perspectives of local stakeholders in the project design which, if implemented properly, can have a net-positive social impact in the area.
Positive ESIA Outcomes
As a result of the impact assessment process, we have elected to minimise the footprint of infrastructure within the CNDP.
- The location of the mine shafts, dictated by the orebody, is within the ecodevelopment zone. We have taken pre-existing land uses into account to reduce the impact on communities (by working around structures and fields where possible).
- Our conveyor belt routing has been optimised by taking the location of sensitive land cover types into account.
- The processing plant has been located at the coast, away from the protected areas of the park.
- Our accommodation facilities have similarly been located away from the park in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of increased pressure on scarce natural resources associated with in-migration by third parties.
The ESIA confirmed that an overland conveyor belt was environmentally preferable to trucking of ore to the plant. This is because it has a smaller disturbance footprint than a haul road and is generally quieter, less dusty and safer. We have consulted communities and conservation NGOs extensively on the location of conveyor belt animal underpasses and community crossing points. These now take into account the needs of different species (including elephants) and the nature of the economic activities practiced by each village along the conveyor belt routing.
The ESIA also indicated that light pollution from our facilities could be potentially harmful. Consequently, we have specified long wavelength lamps on our marine infrastructure to minimise disruption of turtles and have removed lighting from our conveyor belt.