How sustainable mining is helping Guinea build a sustainable future
The United Nations defines sustainable development as “meeting the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations to meet those needs”. For many industries, walking this tightrope between profitability and efficiency now, without jeopardising the environment for future generations is a challenge.
Certainly, finding ways to weave sustainable practices into a carbon-intensive industry like mining is no mean feat. However, through its sustainable bauxite mining operations in the West African country of Guinea, Rusal is helping the country build sustainable growth. In Guinea, Rusal is using its mining operations to help the country become more sustainable, and not just in environmental terms.
Making mining sustainable in Guinea
Mining is, by its very nature, a carbon-heavy industry. Extraction activities have a massive carbon footprint, and emissions need to be very carefully managed in order for the industry to be sustainable. For Guinea, the challenge is how to successfully use the mining industry to unlock its economic potential without compromising its environmental future or creating more short-to-medium term problems, like challenges to food security.
In Guinea, sustainable growth is needed in all areas of society. And Rusal, as Guinea’s largest employer, is leveraging its presence as a major sustainable mining business in Guinea in a way that does not just benefit communities in the short term, but the long term – supporting the development of sustainable development in key areas such as healthcare, society and education.
Rusal’s sustainable aluminium stewardship
First and foremost, however, Rusal is working to make its mining projects in Guinea – and indeed, all over the world – ever more sustainable. As a leading aluminium producer globally, Rusal is supporting the industry in incorporating more sustainable practices. In December 2015, it joined the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), a partnership aimed at developing and raising global sustainability standards throughout the aluminium value chain.
And Rusal has been working at embedding sustainable mining practices into the core of its business for almost 30 years. Since 1990, Rusal has reduced emissions from its smelters by more than 50%. More than 90% of Rusal’s aluminium sustainable mining production is made possible by clean, renewable hydro power. And it intends to make its mining operations even more sustainable. Rusal has stated its intention that, by 2020, all of the electricity required for its mining operation will come from clean energy.
How Rusal sustainable mining in Guinea promotes sustainable development
Becoming sustainable in the environmental sense, through sustainable mining practices, is only one part of the story. Equally important is ensuring sustainable growth in other areas, especially in developing nations such as Guinea.
Although blessed with rich natural resources that it is only now beginning to tap into through mining, Guinea lags behind other countries in terms of development, stymied by problems as diverse as political instability, influxes of refugees from other countries and major epidemics such as Ebola. For this reason, the funding, manpower and will to nurture sustainable development in Guinea have been lacking. As a result, the country has poor infrastructure in areas such as transport and healthcare and 55% of the population live in poverty, a figure that is likely to have risen due to Ebola. Rusal is using its sustainable mining operations in Guinea to help change this story and help the country develop in a sustainable way.
How Rusal uses mining to support sustainable growth in Guinea
Safe, reliable, easily-accessible drinking water underpins sustainable growth – doing everything from promoting good health to enabling girls to stay at school for longer because the burden of collecting water for the family is no longer on their shoulders. Access to good sources of power is similarly important and a key factor in enabling developing nations such as Guinea to achieve sustainable growth.
In both these areas, Rusal has assisted by constructing water pipes and water treatment facilities and helping to electrify villages. For example, in Fria, it has used the capacities of its Friguia bauxite and alumina complex to ensure the sustainable continuous supply of drinking water and electricity to local residents in the town in Lower Guinea. In areas of Guinea in which access to water is more difficult, Rusal will construct artesian wells – a type of well that does not require a pump and therefore is likely to be a sustainable source of clean water for many years to come.
Access to clean water and reliable power is not the only area Rusal is using the reach of its sustainable mining business is promoting strategies for good health in Guinea. The business also runs a network of Rusal Medical Centres attached to its sustainable mining operations in the country, which provide both preventative, curative and emergency care for Rusal employees. The Centre for Epidemic and Microbiological Research and Treatment (CEMRT) built by Rusal in response to the Ebola epidemic as part of a public-private partnership with the Guinean government is the company’s latest contribution to the Guinean health sector.
Using sustainable mining activities to promote education in Guinea
Another area in which Rusal is using its mining activities to drive sustainable growth in Guinea is education. No society can achieve sustainable growth without a good education system but Guinea lags behind many countries in this area. However, Rusal is doing its part to change that.
In 2013, Rusal supported a number of state schools for disadvantaged students in Fria. And each year, it provides school supplies in the villages of Mambia, Pushkin and Debele – educating the young people who will help Guinea in its future development.
Similarly, Guinea is just one of the countries in which the mining business has launched a significant educational programme, which enables 100 students aged between 18 and 25 to study at a leading Russian higher education institution. All expenses related to their studies and accommodation are covered, and the students are also provided with on-the-job training at a Rusal mining enterprise, as well as a guaranteed job at the end of it. Through this programme, Rusal is aiming to foster sustainable growth by equipping the best and brightest in Guinea with the skills required to lead their nation in the next phases of sustainable socioeconomic growth, whether in the mining sector or elsewhere.
Sustainable growth is an ongoing process in Guinea, but thanks to the support of Rusal and its sustainable mining activities, it is undoubtedly on the right path.