Women in Mining UK – Human Rights Panel

Women in Mining UK – Human Rights Panel

As part of Swann’s ongoing commitment to gender diversity in the mining industry, on the 21st September Swanns Janet Bewsey and John Revie attended a Women in Mining UK briefing hosted by Debevoise & Plimpton. The panel discussion was about Human Rights and the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

The event, chaired by Mauricio Lazala from NGO Business-Human Rights, included presentations from representatives of all aspects of the industry. Sophie Lamb and Nicola Leslie from hosts Debevoise and Plimpton outlined the legal framework. JP Morgan’s Guila Guidi spoke about how the bank assesses the environmental and social performance of potential clients. Madeline Young of EY informed about the auditing of compliance with the Voluntary Principles and other legislation. Simon Warke of Rio Tinto spoke about implementing the regulation on the ground in their mines around the world.

A lively round of questions from the floor raised the subject of the lack of a gender perspective in legislation and invited audience member, Newmont Mining board member Noreen Doyle, to speak about their commitment to Human Rights reporting.

Swann recognises the growing issue of Human Rights in mining. The UK Companies Act 2006 section 414C (Strategic Report) for large and quoted companies introduces more accountability for environmental management and for their companies’ responsibilities to employees. The strategic report to be submitted under these regulations has to be signed by a board director or company secretary, thereby taking risk into the boardroom.

As a minimum these regulations mean employees have a right to good standards of health, safety and security. A simple example might be to ensure employees have access to unpolluted water and that working conditions are secure as well as safe. These measures encompass suppliers as well – the client company has a responsibility to ensure their suppliers adhere to the regulations which will require rigorous policies and processes at the procurement level. In some countries, the right to expect an independent, uncorrupted hiring system was cited.

Gender reporting is an integral part of the report which will no doubt give rise to debate in some companies. It’s time for companies to look at the board gender balance – although reporting will go much deeper. The risk to reputational damage from areas boards have not traditionally been hands on with has now moved firmly to the fore. It is no longer acceptable to outsource and ‘assume the job is done’ and a key question now is whether different types of experience are required on boards to address these concerns.

From comments made by Rio Tinto’s representative at the briefing, it is clear they are ahead of the game, and have integrated changes to their policies and working practices some time ago. They understand such practices make profitable sense, not to mention the fact that the finance sector vigorously pursues these standards when considering lending and investing.

If you wish to discuss further how Swann can assist in addressing the skills requirements of your board, please contact your regional Swann office (www.swannglobal.com).

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