Like the proverbial “lightning rod”, gold mining enterprises attract a plethora of state, community, and ethical-based groups, no matter how remote or profitable the endeavor may be. Which side of the business enabler or inhibitor equation the respective body represents may swing back and forth, even worse their involvement may result in nothing but disruption and delays for the gold mining operations.
Government and ministry interest or influence will vary depending upon how common mining within the country or the maturity of the respective government and subsequent controlling ministry is at the time. For those with little competition within the mining or gold mining sector, they usually get far greater interest and subsequent demands from the government, at all levels, often channeled through the governing ministry. To make matters worse, they may even get conflicting requests from all the governmental agencies. Long running and established industries; however, are not immune either. Concessions, regulatory requirements and event demands may include:
- Pay higher taxes
- Pay multiple taxes on all goods and services
- Pay a road transport tax
- Build roads, bridges, train lines, ports and other infrastructure
- Surface all roads
- Upgrade all existing infrastructure
- Build a refinery
- Finance the national education system
- Give money to the local and state communities
- Hire only locals
- Train locals to technical professionals
- Build a school, university, school of mines
- Buy only local goods and services
- Build hospitals
- Build and maintain a national health care system
- Give our ministers and government official free travel
- Send our government and ministry personnel around the world on “industry tours”
- Contribute to our political party
- Give us shares
- Give us ownership
- Subsidize the police, military, and emergency services
- Or simply direct requests of “give us MORE money”
The list may not be exhaustive but you get the idea just how comprehensive, expensive and even ridiculous some of these requirements and demands can be. There is a common belief that having a gold mine in your area or country is your own personal ATM, from which you can extract money from at any time, for any reason. This is often formed by the flawed assumption that the roads, trees and surrounding hills are literally lined with gold and it only fair that you give a large portion of if back to the government and their representatives, because “we believe it is soooooo… easy to get and sell”. If only! Public disclosure of profits and share value don’t help this perception.
As you might imagine, how the gold mining enterprise manages these requests, the individuals involved and the strategic political influences, will all determine how cooperative or how obstructionist a government or ministry will be in the short term and long term.
Unions can form at local/site level or be part of a larger regional or national organization. They rarely have the interests of the workers at heart, with most of them seeking to line their own pockets or grow their own personal wealth. They can also quickly turn a new workforce into a militant rabble, with wild ideas, promises or stories of “how we did it at other sites”, thus bringing operations to a standstill or adding another drama to the daily routine.
Despite many NGO’s public personas and international standing, many local non-government organizations [NGO] become quasi-militant for some reason when engaging mining and gold mining entities. Hostilities can be in the form of local, regional, national and even international headlines, sometimes working in conjunction with news or media outlets. Some gold mining enterprises even hire former NGO staff, union officials and government regulators in the HOPE it will help their business and operations. This is rarely the case.
Environmental regulatory bodies and agencies also feature at some point. Gold mining enterprises require chemicals and technical processes in which to extract and refine the final gold product, therefore there is always risk and vigilance required to ensure there are no oversights or accidents. Environmental agencies can help this process or hinder it outright. Covert operations in the middle of the night to “spy” on gold mining activities could not be considered helpful. Following submission of environmental control documentation, illegal miners and stip-miners appear, pillage the local environment with totally no controls or regulation, could not be considered helpful either. Nor is then blaming it upon the multi-national, trying to do the right thing.
I have already covered the military, police and other federal agencies in other articles and won’t belabor the point in this article.
Whilst this may sound overly harsh when referencing local governments, ministries, unions, NGOs and other related influences acting upon a gold mining operation there is rarely a site or ongoing gold mining enterprise that has not experienced “negative individuals” acting under the banner of one or more of these organizations. It is always one or two individuals but it can be entire government, ministries, etc that wage a kind of commercial and economic war on the gold mining entities. The irony of this is that when production stops, profits and distributions stop. In some more complex environments, that is the very objective of local entities so they can come in and buy a finished, fully functioning gold mine at a fraction of the cost it would cost to build themselves and then run it into the ground for a much smaller portion than the real value of the site, all so they can “get rich quick”.
No matter how remote the site, illiterate the local population or the stage of the gold exploration or mining activity, it is nothing short of amazing how quickly subject matter experts spring up, citing complex and detailed legislation, international statutes, environmental hazard levels or various workplace entitlements. I am yet to find this phenomenon as a total coincidence.
Like it or not, executive and on-site management involved in gold mining activities have experienced one or more of these operating hazards. It is a job requirement that they master the identification and management of associated risks, arising from these source entities. Most productive and prospective gold mining sites that have experienced involuntary cessation of operations, even closure, are due to the failure to manage one or more of these source entities and their influence.