Ethics in mining, oil and other natural resources fields

Ethics in mining, oil and other natural resources fields

May 21st, 2015

Ethics in mining, oil and other natural resources fields

We participated in a debate on ethics in mining at CIM 2015 (Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum).
It was stated that more than any other industry, mining requires holistic approaches because impacts are indeed holistic. Interesting to note that when discussing about ethics everyone seems to accept the idea of holistic impacts, yet nobody objects to common practice risk assessments that most of the time censor and bias impacts and consequences.

Mine project in northern canada

Mine project in northern Canada

Thus it seems that the silos culture is percolating (pun intended) this debate as well: once one puts the “ethics hat” on, then the holistic approach is considered; alternatively, if the “risk assessment” hat is on, then it’s OK to look at partial images of reality.

Now, as Joe Cocker skillfully sang, “You can leave your hat on”! And please stop the silo culture.

A participant noted that ethics experts and engineers do not talk the same language and that’s probably the root cause of many problems. I could not agree more and that’s why in the last few years Riskope has been writing on the need to perform transparent and rational risk assessments and the risks deriving from misrepresenting reality due to conflict of interest and poor methodologies. As I like to joke you don’t go to your butcher and ask him for a dietary recommendation. Various case studies/examples were cited where ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) were pushed forward, in particular through communication and public participation.

I could not accept where the conversation was going anymore, so I stood up and stated that, unfortunately, the industry has a tendency to be schizophrenic, with various conflicting personalities taking the lead in representing it: project developer, engineers, hazards’ specialists, risk assessors, environmental impact assessors and even cyber defense, software and hardware security experts. I stopped rather abruptly my statement, as I noticed someone dialing in the International Asylum for Deranged Risk and Crises Analysts.

Jokes aside:

  • No one mentioned the shortcomings of common practice risk assessment, but me (see more in this white paper).
  • Risk was used by most as a synonym to hazard, creating the usual confusion, but no one seems to care (see more for a ISO 31000 complient glossary).
  • Nobody questioned the “technical side”, EIA, RA validity and all speakers merrily go to discuss with the populations involved using documents that are often blatant misrepresentations of reality.

How can we imagine to develop a valid ethical discourse if we start on such misleading bases?

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Category: Consequences, Probabilities, Risk analysis, Risk management, Tolerance/Acceptability

One response to “Ethics in mining, oil and other natural resources fields”

  1. […] a che fare con questo genere di vicende, ed hanno avuto spesso forti relazioni con il tema della Responsabilità Sociale Aziendale, dell’etica del business e della licenza sociale ad operare (aspetto di particolare rilievo […]

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