Social

We regard ourselves as guests in the countries where we operate and endeavour at all times to maintain healthy and constructive relationships, both with regional and national governments and with our PACs.

To maintain our social licence to operate, we regularly engage with government and local communities to seek mutually beneficial solutions to challenges that arise – providing both financial and practical support on a range of projects considered material, thereby ensuring mutually beneficial partnerships and creating sustainable value for our stakeholders.

Mining is a finite resource; this means we need to establish sustainable businesses through our CSI programme that continue to create value beyond the life of our mines.

Related sustainability principles

  • Prioritising environmental protection
  • Optimising socio-economic benefit
  • Prioritising the development and well-being
    of our employees

A snapshot of our performance

  • US$0.1 million invested in COVID-19 community relief.
  • US$0.3 million invested in social projects
    (2019: US$0.8 million)
  • US$126.9 million spent on local procurement
    (2019: US$164.6 million)
  • Zero major or significant community incidents
    (2019: zero)

Related UN SDGs

We launched the first rolling three-year cycle to embed the UN SDGs into our systems, processes, and decision-making during the year. We have committed to the following six goals:



For more information on our approach to integrating these six SDGs into our business operations, please see our UN SDG framework (working towards global goals).


Our challenges

  • As a business, we value transparent engagement and frequent communication between our operations and our communities, however, in 2020, COVID-19 negatively impacted community engagements due to social distancing requirements and gathering restrictions;
  • Our needs analysis scheduled for 2020, a critical step in how we identify projects, was delayed by COVID-19-related global lockdowns and travel restrictions;
  • Low water reserves caused by a three-year-long regional drought in Lesotho has negatively impacted our PACs; and
  • Focus on reducing costs and enhancing operational efficiencies while balancing the needs of our stakeholders.

Our future

  • Complete and finalise our planned community needs analysis in 2021, and implement the revised strategies and initiatives;
  • Strengthen our partnership with our PACs through CSI initiatives that support the creation of lasting mutually beneficial industries;
  • Enhance communication and stakeholder engagement despite COVID-19 restrictions; and
  • Continually reinforce a culture of efficiency through our continuous improvement (CI) programme, including our CSI investment projects.

Material issues

Safeguarding our communities

Our context

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our primary objective has been to operate in a safe and responsible manner, at all times ensuring the safety and health of our workforce, their families and the communities surrounding our operations, as well as supporting Lesotho’s national effort to control the spread of the virus.

Our mining operations face daily challenges due to their remote locations; these challenges include extreme weather, inaccessible transport routes and limited public infrastructure. While these circumstances pose significant operational challenges, they can also impact on the health and well-being of the communities surrounding our operations. In addition to the challenges faced by community members as a result of their natural and built environment, it is our responsibility as a good corporate citizen, to protect our communities against any potential risks posed by our mining operations and support our communities during times of crisis.

Our tailings storage dams are an integral and necessary part of our mining operations, yet if not responsibly managed they present a substantial risk. In response to global tailings dams tragedies, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) developed and finalised the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management for its member companies, recently launched in August 2020. We are assessing our Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) management processes against the ICCM standard and will develop an action plan to bridge any gaps if they emerge.

Our approach

We follow a comprehensive social and environmental engagement programme to help us identify PACs in the region, and their needs. Our new mining lease stipulates that 1% of turnover or a minimum of LSL5 million be invested in community initiatives each year. Following the recovery and sale of all special diamonds greater than 300 carats in size, 1% of that diamond’s value is directed to social projects.

COVID-19

We were able to leverage our infectious disease management platform to help raise awareness about COVID-19, by engaging extensively with government, medical experts and communities. The goal was to protect our workforce and support Lesotho at a local and national level. We partnered with the Lesotho Government and the Ministry of Health to raise awareness and distribute PPE and hand sanitisers to 10 villages in neighbouring Mokhotlong district. Training and support programmes were also rolled out to educate our employees and our surrounding communities on the correct use of PPE, and the importance of social distancing and proper hygiene. In total, 48 community health workers were trained to lead the programmes in the surrounding communities. Food parcels for those adversely affected by the pandemic in surrounding PACs were procured and distributed by Letšeng, and a four-roomed mobile facility was donated to the Ministry of Health for use as a COVID-19 testing lab in Maseru. We will continue to support and assist the Government of Lesotho in their efforts to manage the impact of the pandemic, including doing what we can to facilitate access to effective vaccination programmes.

Dam safety and integrity

Dam safety and integrity is an ongoing area of focus for mining companies and their stakeholders, in recognition of the significant risk that these facilities pose if not continuously monitored and managed responsibly. Most recent dam failures reported in the global mining industry were related to dams built using ‘upstream’ construction methods. Letšeng has three dams on-site; the Patiseng Tailings Storage Facility (TSF), the Old TSF and the freshwater Mothusi Dam. All three were constructed using the ‘centre line and downstream tipping’ method, recognised as a safer and more stable construction method.

The Patiseng TSF, the Old TSF and the Mothusi Dam facilities undergo stringent inspections daily, weekly and monthly, surveying various factors such as water level, beach length, freeboard and overall structural stability. Furthermore, an early-warning system, together with continuous community training and awareness programmes, have been implemented to ensure communities' emergency readiness in the unlikely event of a failure. Ensuring the integrity of our mining waste and freshwater storage facilities is yet another way that we safeguard our communities. We take a proactive approach to guarantee that dam safety is continually managed according to our Dam Safety Protocol. Dam walls undergo stringent safety monitoring in the form of inspections and audits, which are conducted internally and externally at regular intervals throughout the year. The findings and recommendations stemming from these investigations and audits are reported to the sustainability sub-committees and the Board. For more information about our dam facilities, please read the Gem Diamonds voluntary disclosure as part of the Investor Mining & Tailings Safety initiative set up by the Church of England, available here.

We regularly monitor the natural springs and local boreholes in our PACs. Over the years, we have seen an increase of E. coli bacteria in the community water sources as a result of livestock fouling in these water sources. The communities in the surrounding areas are predominantly subsistence and livestock farmers. To assist our communities, we provide clean potable water sources to these communities. To further safeguard water sources from animal fouling, we are rehabilitating the natural springs and wetlands in the area.

Road safety

Due to inadequate basic infrastructure in the Letšeng area, our team regularly perform road maintenance, clears snow, scatter salt on access roads and remove vehicles that block access, thereby ensuring safer road conditions for our PACs. In the case of vehicle road accidents or other road emergencies, the Letšeng clinic and health care workers are often the closest and best equipped to assist. During 2020, the clinic responded to nine accidents on the national roads and 91 people from the general public were injured in road accidents were treated in our clinic.

Our performance

  • Zero incidents of compromised dam integrity were recorded in 2020 (2019: zero);
  • In 2020, the Letšeng emergency team responded to 12 emergency calls from PACs, of which nine were motor vehicle related (2019: 24);
  • Potable water was provided to the community to mitigate the severity of the drought and escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria pollutants in streams and underground water reserves;
  • PPE and hand sanitisers distributed to 10 villages in the Mokhotlong district;
  • 48 community health workers trained to lead the COVID-19 programmes in the surrounding communities;
  • In excess of 1 000 food parcels procured and distributed to PACs; and
  • A four-roomed mobile facility was donated to the Ministry of Health for use as a COVID-19 testing lab in Maseru.

Our context

The strength of our relationships with our stakeholders, particularly employees, regulators, PACs and host nation governments ensures our social licence to operate. This relationship depends on how effectively we manage issues such as ethics, labour practices, environmental and social responsibility, as well as our risk management and engagement activities with stakeholders. We adopt a culture of care within our business, by engaging, listening and responding responsibly to our stakeholders' needs. Our decision-making is helped by regular stakeholder engagements, which in turn enables us to create value for wider society and promote our long-term sustainability. For more information about stakeholder engagement and management, please read our annual report.

Lesotho has high levels of unemployment, inequality and poverty. We recognise that within this context, we have a responsibility to contribute positively and sustainably to our PACs that extends beyond the life of the mine, and believe that it is only through meaningful engagement that this can be achieved. A stakeholder engagement strategy and programme is in place and Letšeng regularly engages with stakeholders in accordance with this strategy. For more information about please read our optimising positive social outcomes case study.

Our approach

Our community engagement approach is informed by our operation-specific social and environmental impact assessments (SEIAs) and community needs analyses. These are informed by extensive public participation, host country legislation and international best practice guidelines, such as the Equator Principles and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability.

Acknowledging the unique cultural and traditional context of our communities is essential, and we aim to engage transparently and respectfully. We have, therefore, appointed suitably qualified and trained employees to ensure this transpires. Furthermore, our operations have a framework for stakeholder consultation in place to ensure that regular, meaningful engagement occurs. We integrate the feedback from these engagements in our decision-making. At Letšeng, PACs have elected community representatives who communicate with the CSI department to create a sustainable and culturally effective link between communities and the mine. The community representatives sit on the CSI sub-committee of the Letšeng Board, which meets quarterly. These meetings include discussions on implementation and sustainability of current and planned CSI projects.

PAC visits and mass meetings had to be postponed in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 related gathering restrictions and as a result, we could not complete our planned needs analysis work in 2020. The operation relied on other forms of engagement with our communities, such as virtual meetings and increased telephonic communications directly with PAC leadership and councillors. The community needs analysis work is scheduled to be completed in 2021. For more information read our social outcomes case study.

The level of community engagement at Ghaghoo was impacted by the decision to stop operations and place the Ghaghoo mine on care and maintenance in 2017. Although this resulted in a scaling back of CSI project related investment at Ghaghoo, we maintain successful relations with and support our community at Gope, situated close to the mine. We continue to provide potable water, medical support and include the community in our regular health and safety campaigns.

Our performance

  • No major or significant stakeholder incidents occurred at any of our operations (2019: none);
  • No incidents involving any violation of the rights of the indigenous people on whose land the Group operates (2019: none); and
  • COVID-19-related aid and assistance provided to PACs.

Our context

Due to our mines being in remote, rural locations we recognise the importance of protecting the well-established cultures and social structures in the surrounding communities. We believe it is our duty to uplift and support the economic, environmental, and social sustainability potential of these communities, promoting practices that protect human rights in every aspect of how we operate.

Our approach

We align our community engagements and CSI projects to international best practice and principles of sustainability. We apply an informed approach using information gathered in the community needs analyses and SEIAs conducted. These assessments include extensive public participation to understand our PACs needs and concerns. The goal is to minimise adverse mining impacts while identifying opportunities for positive outcomes. Our SEIAs involve biodiversity surveys; soil, water and air-quality studies; archaeological surveys; visual and socio-economic impact assessments; and an extensive public participation process.

While our needs analysis could not be conducted in 2020, the community needs analysis work is scheduled to be completed in 2021 should the COVID-19 restrictions allow.

Our performance

  • Zero incidents involving the violation of the rights of indigenous communities (2019: zero);
  • Despite COVID-19 restrictions, we continued to engage with PACs through established and enhanced forums in a safe and responsible manner; and
  • Zero major or significant community grievances were lodged (2019: zero).

Our context

Lesotho is a developing country with high poverty rates. The three districts bordering our Letšeng mine are some of the most impoverished communities in Lesotho. Diamonds and the textile industry contribute the majority to Lesotho’s export economy. While these industries are growing, they are still in the early stages of development. We contribute towards our host communities through the payment of taxes and royalties as well as our sustainable development investments, local employment and local procurement practices. To ensure that our investments create meaningful change, we focus on real engagement with our communities to understand their needs and the implementation of sustainable projects.

Our approach

We value our relationship with our PACs and understand the importance of our mutually beneficial relationship to ensure our business's long-term sustainability. We keep abreast of compliance and legal requirements while moving beyond these, striving to make a meaningful impact and meet our host communities' needs.

Letšeng’s mining lease stipulates that a minimum amount of LSL5 million be spent on CSI activities annually. In addition, Letšeng has committed to invest 1% of the sale price of special diamonds (300 carats or more) to be invested in CSI initiatives.

Our approach Letšeng’s mining lease stipulates that a minimum amount of LSL5 million be spent on CSI activities annually. In addition, Letšeng has committed to invest 1% of the sale price of special diamonds (300 carats or more) to be invested in CSI initiatives.to CSI focuses on investments that promote long-term sustainability for our communities. Each project in our CSI programme follows a five-year plan to ensure sustainability. Our CSI projects focus on  education, health, infrastructural, environmental and enterprise-development initiatives. We also integrate the UN SDGs when conceptualising new CSI initiatives, to contribute to achieving these goals. See here for more information on our UN SDG framework.

We intended to begin a full needs analysis in 2020, but this was not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions. Our goal is to complete this work in 2021. A needs analysis involves extensive consultation with our PACs and community leadership to ensure that community priorities and our CSI initiatives are best aligned. For an update on existing CSI projects, see our case study here.

We value education, mentorship and skills transfer. Since inception, we have issued 45 scholarships and in excess of 100 interns have gained valuable experience at the mine. Our scholarship programme works with the government to identify scarce skills and has to date focus ed on mining, engineering, emergency medical care, geology and finance.

Our level of community engagement at Ghaghoo was impacted by the decision to stop operations and place the mine on care and maintenance in 2017; this resulted in us scaling back on CSI project-related investment. Despite this, we still maintain successful relations with and support our surrounding community at Gope, and continue to provide potable water, medical support and include the community in our regular health and safety campaigns.

Our performance

  • A number of planned CSI projects were delayed due to COVID-19; and
  • CSI investment US$0.3 million to (2019: US$0.8 million).

 

Our context

We value localisation as a critical strategy to create shared value for our host countries and communities. By employing our PACs and engaging with local businesses in our supply chain, we can create value for our stakeholders and offer a significant and positive contribution to our communities, while meeting our business's needs.

Our approach

The Letšeng mine makes a substantial contribution to the Lesotho economy, providing jobs for more than 1 851 people and supporting the local economy and the broader population of Lesotho through focused local procurement initiatives.

By employing members of our PACs, we positively enhance our local economies. We recruit locally, and where possible, we match available local skills with our on-site operational requirements. In total, 98% of our workforce in the Group are citizens of the host nations.

To promote sustainable socio-economic growth in our PACs, we optimise local procurement. We ensure that all goods and services procured locally comply with necessary standards, and we support local suppliers in meeting these requirements where appropriate.

Our performance

  • 98% of Letšeng’s workforce comprises Basotho nationals (2019: 98%); and
  • As a result of the impacts of COVID-19, the Group-wide in-country procurement decreased to US$126.9 million (2019: US$164.6 million), of which US$2.2 million was procured directly from PACs (2019: US$2.4 million), and US$27.4 million (2019: US$30.9 million) from regional communities around Letšeng.