It goes without saying that the economic and social cost of the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to be felt for years to come. As a leader in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, Anglo American Platinum is clear about its commitment to supporting its stakeholders – in this case, its host community members – during and beyond the pandemic.
First, we understand
The unexpected Covid-19 pandemic caused physical, emotional and mental turmoil for communities the world over. Millions of people had to endure the trauma of losing loved ones, losing their livelihoods, and suffering the long-term health effects of the virus. For Anglo American Platinum, the challenge presented the platinum group metals (PGMs) business with an opportunity to put its purpose to reimagine mining to improve people’s lives to the ultimate test.
The company’s operational sites are located close to host communities and have a long history of engaging with local stakeholders and supporting local socio-economic initiatives. This level of closeness gives the organisation a solid grasp of the changing needs of its host community stakeholders. It is this insight that proved to be beneficial in the implementation of a Covid-19 response plan.
Understanding how the pandemic had impacted Anglo American Platinum’s host communities meant that the company was able to quickly and collaboratively respond to the vulnerabilities of its employees, contractors and host communities in both South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Executive Head of Corporate Relations and Sustainable Impact Yvonne Mfolo explains how Anglo American Platinum works to operationalise its purpose: “Our sustainable mining plan – which is a blueprint for how we do our business across all our operations – is informed by the understanding that the mining industry must transform, starting now. Through a commitment to three pillars – a healthy environment, thriving communities,
as well as being a trusted corporate leader that leaves people better off – we are always working with an ultimate outcome in mind. Our focus is on creating thriving communities that are empowered and self-sustainable as a ]result of collaboration.”
Then, we respond
When Covid-19 was classified as a global pandemic in March 2020, Anglo American Platinum responded rapidly,
expanding existing community development projects and introducing new initiatives that were closely aligned to the objective of protecting lives and livelihoods.
In 2020, the organisation invested R500 million in Covid-19 measures at its workplaces and host communities. In addition, R1.6 billion was paid in salaries and benefits to employees who were not able to return to work due to lockdown restrictions or underlying health conditions. Our host community development work was focused on health, education and infrastructure-related projects. These projects included gender-based violence (GBV) support, Wi-Fi provision at schools in host communities, and other projects included in the company’s existing social and labour plans, and corporate social investment strategy. Guided by the needs assessments Anglo American Platinum conducted, it continues to adjust and expand these projects, rolling out new ones in line with the evolving needs of our stakeholders.
And finally, we rebuild
The after-effects of the pandemic are now a central element of the ‘new normal’ the world must contend with. It has been more than two years since the pandemic struck and even though a lot has been lost, there is still much to be hopeful about. What became clear to Anglo American Platinum over the last two years is that, despite focused global attention on the immediate impacts of the pandemic, the work of rebuilding that which has been broken has to start.
Anglo American Platinum’s needs assessments revealed that in South Africa and Zimbabwe, poverty increased significantly, rural education outcomes remained poor with low literacy levels and limited support for secondary school learners, further job losses exacerbated high unemployment rates, and a dramatic increase in cases of GBV.
In response to these needs, Anglo American Platinum approved R400 million in 2021 to extend its social investment, taking into consideration the social unrest that occurred in South Africa in that year, as well as the significant impact of Covid-19 on employees, contractors, host communities and small- and medium-sized enterprises the company does business with. This is the company’s Covid-19 and unrest rebuild programme and it includes, for example, specific recovery-related allocations for food support to vulnerable households, student bursaries, water and sanitation in schools, job creation, and GBV prevention and support.
The extension of the Hall Core Water Mapela (HCWM) project is one example. The project was initiated in 2018 to supply potable water to the company’s host communities around its Mogalakwena mining complex close to Mokopane in Limpopo, in partnership with the local and district municipalities. In 2020, to aid communities facing the impacts of Covid-19, six more villages were added to the project with the intention to add more villages.
From an education perspective, the company launched avR35 million debt relief programme, aimed at assisting qualifying students who reside in the company’s host communities to graduate or continue their tertiary studies. This is in addition to the community bursary scheme launched earlier this year, valued at R20 million with 75 beneficiaries.
From a health and wellbeing perspective, Anglo American Platinum continues to provide broad-based vaccination support in both operational and labour-sending areas, such as the North West Province and the Eastern Cape.
“Our Covid-19 and unrest rebuild programme is not a once-off event – we are committed to it being a continuous journey where we walk hand in hand with our host communities as we work to find solutions to their many vulnerabilities. We have made significant inroads since the early days of the pandemic, but our work is far from being done, and we owe it to ourselves and our host communities to succeed,” says Mfolo.
Anglo American Platinum’s Social Performance Socio-economic Development Manager