Lauren Abendschein

Good for the MNC, Good for the BOP – Global Alumina to Open Major Mining Operations in Guinea

mnc bopThe BBC reported yesterday that Global Alumina–a Canadian-listed corporation–has partnered with the US-sponsored African Development Foundation (ADF) to structure a triple bottom line approach to mining in Guinea. The small West African country is among the poorest in the world, but it is rich in bauxite. When refined into alumina – the aluminium ore from which aluminium is made – bauxite can fetch a price that would give its beneficiaries a significant economic boost. Global Alumina’s plan would channel the spillover effects of these profits toward tens of thousands of workers in Guinea.

Although some MNCs have provided compensation to affected communities through corporate social responsibility efforts, Global Alumina is building these communities into its business plan. The company is building two new villages with schools, sanitations systems and other infrastructure, as well as compensating villagers for trees and other revenue sources that will be lost. Their lengthy environmental and social impact assessment complies with Guinean procedures as well as with the operational policies of the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation.Most importantly, new jobs will be created for the villagers, both in construction and working for the mining company, with skills training included. Global Alumina has also committed to developing SMEs in the area in partnership with the ADF and UN Development Programme.

AllAfrica.com quotes the company co-founder and CEO Bruce Wrobel, describing social responsibility as good business, as well as good practice:

“A project of this scale in a country with undeveloped infrastructure requires a great deal of cooperation from the local communities”, he says, citing an ambitious alumina refinery project in India that has been stalled for several years by popular opposition. He also argues that a fast-track education and jobs training effort can save the company money in the future, when expensive expatriates can be replaced by local labor, and that investment in health services is cost-effective. “Healthy workers, healthy employees, healthy families are key to productivity”, he says, “beyond the moral imperative to have social benefits”.

The emphasis that Global Alumina has placed on developing local SMEs as part of its outreach program is commendable. Though there are still usual concerns for wages, environmental and health effects, and workers rights, Global Alumina has taken a positive step in alleviating the worst of its effects while providing a model for profitable, sustainable development. It will be interesting to see how the company fares as it aims to begin operations in 2009.

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Education
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academia, World Resources Institute