Spotlight: ICMM report on community health programs in mining

Monday, 24 February, 2014

We’re health buffs here at CSR21. Not in the sense, perhaps, that we’re an office of clear-skinned wheatgrass-chugging avocado maniacs (though one of us drinks Rooibos); more in the sense that we’re in favour of CSR work taking the form of health interventions. 

This isn’t just because mining has causal links with tuberculosis, or because HIV follows mining settlements like a nasty shadow, or because mines are dangerous places in which to live and work, or even just because providing cost-effective basic health services to those who live in and around mining settlements is an easy win-win.

It’s a bit of all of these, but it’s also because in a climate where the effectiveness, wisdom and correctness of all sorts of aid is hotly - sometimes rightly - debated, the provision of health services is in its most basic sense correct. Sickness is unequivocally bad - bad for people, bad for businesses. It is hard to argue, therefore, against the well-planned provision of vaccinations, of diagnoses, of treatment to curable diseases that would otherwise remain uncured. Often, too, it's cost effective and helps safeguard the mine's operational stability at the same time, and can greatly improve efficiency and profitability (this last with a strong historical basis in fact).

That’s why we cracked rare Monday morning smiles as we discussed a report from the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) that analyses “the community health initiatives undertaken by ICMM member companies,” highlighting key lessons and provising recommendations for future projects. It's a good overview - limited in focus to the work of ICMM members, of course - of an area where any effective taxonomy of successes, failures and lessons has a good chance of translating into improvements and lengthening of actual lives.

Published in August of last year, a few months before we launched CSR21, the report was intended to provide “a platform for collective engagement between [ICMM] members and other stakeholders on health-related issues,” providing “ a snapshot of practice in the area of community health [and] addressing issues ranging from communicable and non-communicable diseases to nutritional deficiencies.”

It contains a concise and readable executive summary and identifies a number of lessons interesting to anyone engaged in community relations, most of which are clearly transferable out of the health sphere to a reader with common sense. These include the importance of:

Engaging with communities so actual and perceived health needs are understood prior to initiative design

Clearly defining company priorities in community health, ideally through corporate policies and standards, and then effectively managing stakeholder expectations

Selecting partners with proven technical and implementation capacity to run health projects

Ensuring respective roles and responsibilities of all partners are clearly articulated through memoranda of understanding, and that co-ordination mechanisms are defined with existing stakeholders, active in community health in the area

Recognizing the role of the government health system in providing oversight, policy and strategy guidance, and stewardship; where district health authority capacity is constrained, attempting to address this as part of the community health initiative

Establishing sound monitoring and evaluation systems, including impact and process indicators that can be used to determine the success of the initiative, as well as to stimulate necessary refinements during project implementation.

We look forward to more in this vein from the ICMM and others. The full report [pdf] is available at:


IMAGE: From ICMM report cover