Amur Minerals Only Too Keen To Help Out In Case Of Flood Or Fire

Sunday, 15 November, 2015

In CSR, it’s not always about the material value of what you give that counts.

Sometimes it’s more about simply pitching in and sharing in the trials and tribulations of the local community, all making do together.

That certainly is the experience of Amur Minerals, a nickel exploration company that’s been working in the Far East of Russia for a number of years now.

On the whole it’s not easy setting up long-term community and social responsibility programmes when your whole operation comes to a virtual halt in the Siberian winter and the nearest local village is around 180 kilometres away.

But there are things you can do, many of them reactive rather than proacative. But for all that, the locals are no less grateful.

“There are several instances where things happen”, says Amur’s chief executive Robin Young.

“Especially when the Amur River floods, we can be there. When the flooding happens our crew is ready to help. We’re on a list of people who help in situations such as that.”

Forest fires are another not uncommon local emergency to which the Amur team stands ready to help. In particular this may involve the diversion at short notice of company-chartered helicopters to assist in fire-fighting.

But does all this make a real difference with the wider populace of the Amur region, or oblast, as it’s known in Russian?

Certainly it embeds Amur into the fabric of the land management of the district and ensures that it’s presence as an operator on the ground is seen in official and semi-official circles as a boon rather than a hindrance.

And indeed, Amur was among the first of a recent swathe of Western mining companies to be granted licences to produce minerals from a Russian ministry that had for a long time seemed reticent about granting them.

Amur’s work with local authorities in crisis management can’t have hindered that process.

But in terms of the actual people, it’s jobs and the wider economic potential of the mining project that really counts.

To illustrate this, Robin points to a recent television news story that Russia’s Channel 24 ran on Amur – available here.

This news story went out in Russian, and as far as Robin and the Amur team are concerned that was all to the good.

After all, Robin spends a good deal of his time communicating to Western investors via official news releases and other investor platforms, and a good deal more of his time communicating with the central Russian ministries regarding economic, land and mining rights issues  .

But to be able to participate in a local news show and reach out to local people was something of a revelation.

“Several people were immediately in contact with us”, he says. And not just your average man in the street wanting jobs.

“We had governors and mayors saying we can provide people for construction and jobs. Don’t forget us. How can we help you to develop the project?”

After all, the Russian Far East as a whole, vast though it is, isn’t new to mining. There are mines scattered throughout Magadan and Sakha to the north, while far away to the north west lies Norilsk, which is probably one of the most famous nickel producing towns in the world.

Mining helped open up Russia’s Far East at around the same time the US gold rushes were helping open up the American west.

So on the whole, the company is unlikely to run up against any cultural resistance to mining.

Operating in Russia per se is another matter, and here more than one company with connections to the West has come unstuck, from heavyweights like BP right on down.

In that context, fitting in and helping out when floods and fire come to town is all part of a wider plan to get on well with the neighbours and to become part of the local scenery.

“We play by their rules and work to their standards,” says Robin. “As long as you’re on the same page as they are and doing what has to be done, you can get on all right.”

Playing by their rules seems fair enough. It’s their country, after all.