August 2012


Copper explorer improves life for Andean Highlands residents

By Sean Waller

One of the benefits of working in the mining industry is the opportunity to travel to mining projects across the globe. More often than not these projects are located in remote (at least to us) and often underdeveloped regions. Over the last few years, I have devoted a lot of time to Candente Copper’s project in the Andean Highlands of northern Peru, enabling me to get a first-hand view of the local people, their communities and their lives. Through this experience, I realized the best way to improve the quality of life in this region is through the mining industry.

The Andean Highlands are beautiful, but life is not easy. As in many underdeveloped areas of the world, the local residents have little or no opportunity for employment outside of their subsistence lifestyle. Simply put, they have no choice. The lack of employment opportunities is compounded by the lack of basic infrastructure: medical clinics are few, poorly equipped and under-staffed, schools are under-staffed and under-funded, and clean water service does not exist.

Our company started hiring local people at our Cañariaco Norte project as soon as we started initial exploration. As exploration activities intensified, so did our commitments to community development. While our community development programs continue to evolve, they have already had an impact on employment opportunities, skill development and training programs, and quality of life and health in the region. I believe community development initiatives should start at the beginning of any exploration phase, long before the decision to build a mine is made.

Increased local employment opportunities

Providing local employment is the easiest way to give direct benefit to the community. Around our site in Peru, both exploration activities and employment levels have increased. We also developed employment protocols with the local villages to manage expectations regarding the number of positions available and the distribution of jobs between the 48 villages.

Targeted skill development and training programs

A mining company cannot hire every eligible person in the community, so a successful community development program must incorporate programs that develop other sectors. Candente added training programs to provide skills in vehicle and light equipment operation, basic electrical and mechanic work, foodservice, educational assistance for students, and agriculture.

The agricultural programs are having a particularly positive impact. In 2011, Candente initiated a program to improve quality and increase production of coffee for 400 small farmers in 22 different villages by 2013. We hired a coffee agronomist and field assistants to travel to villages and hold training events with coffee farmers. Recently, Candente contracted Progresso Agrario (Pro-A), a local NGO that works with farmers to increase their yield and quality, and to help develop their ability to market to buyers in eastern Canada and Europe.

Collaboration with NGOs boosts quality of life and builds trust

Candente introduced several international NGOs to the area and supports their efforts by providing introductions to people in the villages, as well as funding and assistance with field logistics. Save the Children International, a global NGO that works to improve children’s lives and protect their rights, now provides a number of villages with training programs on health, hygiene and nutrition in the home, and supports programs offered by the ministries of education and health in the region. The Clinton Giustra Foundation, whose mission is to narrow the wealth gap in the developing world by empowering the poor through effective, results-oriented, economic and social development projects, initiated a program offering free cataract surgeries. The program’s impact is significant because cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the region.

Working with independent NGOs can also be an effective way to help ease community opposition towards a mining company. Participating in NGO relationships with local communities results in more stimulating dialogue and improved transparency about the mineral project, and informs and empowers the community.

The implementation of community development programs is a critical step in demonstrating commitment to the community, in building trust and in providing measurable benefits right from the start. Responsible mining development in re­mote and underdeveloped areas brings with it opportunity, and where there is opportunity, there is choice. And isn’t a choice something everyone deserves?

Sean Waller is president and director of Candente Copper Corp. He is a registered professional engineer with 30 years of international experience in mining project management, evaluation, design and operation, with a specific focus on large copper scale projects and gold projects. Prior to joining Candente he was with AMEC Americas Limited Mining Division in Vancouver, where he held the positions of vice-president of global business development and senior project manager.

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