Researching some sustainability reports this week, I learned about an Xstrata initiative in Peru to create an Independent Advisory Group on the Las Bambas mine. I can’t comment on the performance from my London-desk, but given the recent turmoil in Peru, it was good to see a company working hard to set up a more accountable system.
I have seen (and helped set up) community consultation committees, but this really is the next step up. I especially appreciate the explicit discussion of how new people can apply and the practical arrangements. Community oversight always seems like an obvious idea, but there are always lurking issues, conflicts of interest and hidden agendas. Being explicit about assumptions and reporting (here is the report on activities from 2005-2007) is the only way to deal with those issues.
A challenge in thinking this through, however, is how smaller companies might apply some of the principles to set up similar initiatives when there are not as many resources to spend on such a group. I also wonder if the participants and the initiators feel like it is the most effective use of time and money.