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A pioneering community empowerment initiative in South Africa

Mining is a transient activity, prompting critics to doubt the ability of the industry to live up to ambitious claims of sustainability, especially in the communities that host or neighbour the mines and feel the impacts of mining activities. Many former mining towns in Africa and around the world have declined dramatically following mine closure, with crumbling infrastructure, weak social services, economic stagnation and elevated levels of unemployment.

In South Africa, SRK has been working closely with Anglo American Platinum and a multi-disciplinary group of advisors to develop and launch a ground-breaking community empowerment and development initiative. This initiative seeks to facilitate real and sustainable community development that will outlast local mining at four of the company’s South African operations and in distant areas contributing labour to these mines. The initiative complements broader community engagement and development programs facilitated by the company in host and labour sending areas.

The initiative, dubbed “Alchemy” consists of the following key elements: community shareholding in Anglo American Platinum (making the participating communities the third-biggest Anglo American Platinum shareholder); a guaranteed minimum flow of funds, irrespective of dividend levels; community-managed local development trusts; an integrated planning process that builds lasting partnerships with government, business and civil society; and a commitment to ongoing and inclusive engagement.  

Alchemy has evolved over a period of several years and members of the SRK Johannesburg social team have been involved since early 2009. Contributions included social baseline research and strategic and operational advice to financial, legal and organisational design activities. The SRK team has also led an extensive stakeholder engagement program, leading to the establishment of the local Alchemy development trusts.

The initiative has shown the value of a multi-year project development program involving a client and selected specialist advisors. This approach has enabled SRK and others to participate from concept to implementation, adding value for all parties involved.   

Tim Hart:

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