The “Zero Harm” logo has a place throughout the Rosebel operation, from the offices to the mill tanks, as a visual reminder of the ultimate safety objective.
When Ross Gallinger joined IAMGOLD in May of 2006, the company was in the midst of a massive transformation. Until that year, it was involved in the gold mining industry exclusively as an investing partner. But in March 2006, the company finalized the acquisition of Gallery Gold, along with the latter’s producing Mupane gold mine, near Francistown in eastern Botswana.
Moving from investment concern to mine operator would necessitate significant strategic and planning changes, which the IAMGOLD management team recognized. One of the major areas in need of attention was going to be the trifecta of health, safety and sustainability. It is with these changes in mind that the company hired Gallinger, who had most recently held the position of vice-president of sustainability with Placer Dome.
But Mupane was only the beginning. In early November of the same year, IAMGOLD acquired a second producer, Cambior. This gave the company control over two more operating mines, Doyon and Mouska — both located in gold-rich Val-d’Or in northwestern Quebec.
“Suddenly the company became a full-on mid-tier production company,” explains Gallinger, who was tasked with developing a comprehensive set of policies and plans covering sustainability. “We went from being a very small joint venture to being the tenth largest gold company.” The organization’s rapid growth presented an opportunity to evaluate its entire setup and develop a structure that would be an optimal fit for the company’s long-term goals, without being excessively constrained by existing, and potentially insufficient, frameworks.
“What management had was desires, especially our president and CEO, Joe Conway,” Gallinger recalls. “Joe said, ‘we really need to chart a course; I have some experience around it but we need to get somebody who has the expertise to do this, so we’re not reinventing the wheel. Let’s go find someone who could help us on that part.’”
Gallinger is quick to point out, however, that safety and sustainability practices were certainly not lacking when he came on board. “IAMGOLD has always traditionally been heavy on the exploration side,” he explains. “Visiting the sites, I was very pleased to see that positive practices regarding community and the environment were well embedded. The Quimsacocha project was a great example of that. They had a community team in place and a great environmental program for reclaiming drill pads. I’ve never seen an exploration site run so well from an environmental sustainability point of view.” What was needed, Gallinger explains, was a support system for the practitioners already implementing these initiatives on the ground.
With both practitioners and management receptive to the need for a coherent policy, Gallinger and his team were able to draw extensively on the expertise of both groups. To start the process, the team looked at existing sustainability frameworks, but none fit the bill. “So we looked at developing our own framework that would include all the things that we see as necessary in sustainability,” says Gallinger. It includes six elements: leadership and accountability; stakeholder engagement; change management, risk management and emergency preparedness; environmental stewardship; social stewardship; and governance.
The company also incorporated successful practices from its newly acquired assets. For example, Cambior was ISO 14001-certified and so IAMGOLD incorporated it into the framework; it is now the method used to fulfil the environmental stewardship component.
How do you eat an elephant?
According to an oft-quoted African proverb, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. This is one of the reasons that the IAMGOLD sustainability framework is not a set of fixed rules. Tackling all of the areas that need improvement at once, says Gallinger, would be far less fruitful than focusing on a single area, bringing it up to the desired level, and then maintaining it while shifting focus to the next one.
“To start off with, you can’t do 50 things really well; you have to do the ones that are most important to you,” he says. “We don’t expect that people go for the low hanging fruit. We want them to work on the things that are really going to manage the risk and provide valuable outcomes at the sites. Everything is equally important, but you have to really look at what the needs are in the area and go that route.”
One challenge in developing the framework was finding the right metric by which to measure success. The development of this metric, against which IAMGOLD evaluates all its sustainability efforts, is an achievement in and of itself, and one Gallinger is very happy with.
“For example, last year we challenged our executives to come up with a core vision describing where we want to be on health, safety and sustainability going forward,” he explains. “You can actually put some numbers on the safety side, but when you start talking about the environment and community, it gets bogged down in technical aspects.” To address this, the company turned to the concept of “zero harm” — one that Gallinger acknowledges is not unique to IAMGOLD. “A lot of people utilize zero harm, including Petro-Canada and BHP Billiton, and I have had some experience with it in the past as well. I am really amazed at how people here are grasping the concept and really running with it. It’s something that our employees take a lot of pride in discussing.”