A tangible, positive impact on Australian-African relations
The Australia-Africa Mining Industry Group (AAMIG) was established to represent Australian and Australian-based mining, exploration, service and supply companies operating in Africa. AAMIG assists its members to operate successfully in Africa, reducing risk and creating shared value. It aims to be a significant voice for the industry, facilitate strategic partnerships, support education and training and promote community development opportunities.
AAMIG CEO Trish O’Reilly explains that the AAMIG was formed in 2011, following an important realisation. “The senate inquiry into Australia’s relationship with Africa and recommendations from that were there should be some joining up, some relationship between mining and government,” says AAMIG CEO Trish O’Reilly.
Membership of the AAMIG is Australian small-to-medium mining companies, exploring companies, and service companies who operate in Africa.
“We have grown exponentially since that time,” continues O’Reilly. “My first few months were really about setting up the benefits of joining the organisation, strategic plans, business plans and getting the governance under control. We respond to a variety of requests from members and potential members, and are extremely busy.”
The voice of Australian mining
AAMIG has filled an important gap in the market that supports Australian mining companies to maximise their relationships within African communities.
“We are the voice of Australian mining, and focus on promoting the industry and service companies in Africa,” says O’Reilly.
“We are making a positive, sustainable difference. The private sector is absolutely positioned to help developing countries in Africa and our goal is to support positive growth and capacity building and leave behind a legacy in Africa.”
By way of promoting good practise, AAMIG helps its members decipher complicated international guiding documentations. “Mining companies have to have the staff to understand what they actually mean and understand them, so we run workshops promoting EITI, security issues, UN guiding documentation on Business and Human Rights, and similar documents,” explains O’Reilly.
AAMIG has a key role in developing key relations with Australian local state government, especially the WA government – “which is world class in mining and the expertise they have locally,” according to O’Reilly – and African governments.
At the 2013 Africa Down Under meeting, the AAMIG had the opportunity to discuss associate membership with African governments: an idea that received a lot of positive feedback.
“One of the issues we hear from Australian mining is the challenge with communication with African governments,” says O’Reilly, “and so we act as an intermediary for both parties to work on issues such as nationalisation, sustainability and education.”
The AAMIG is a unique industry group in that it works for healthy and lasting relationships between Australian mining companies and African governments, not just the bottom line. Described as the morals and ethics behind the industry by the US Consulate General, the AAMIG exists to support the local mining industry, be positive and provide guidelines, promotion and training to its members.
Additionally, the association has experts in issues specific to working in Africa, such as facilitation payments, security, anti-bribery and other things that may be outside the realm of expertise for Australian mining companies.
AAMIG plays an integral role in promoting community development in the countries in which its members work.
“We focus a great deal on social responsibility and the idea that we are going into someone else’s backyard and that creates responsibilities and obligations,” says O’Reilly.
“We wouldn’t want someone coming into our backyard and taking. It’s about what you can give back and the legacy you leave behind. We are certainly about sustainability and capacity building, so when the mine closes there is real growth that continues regardless of whether the mine is there or not.”
Recent work with the WA Health Department has evolved into a programme whereby nurses go to the Congo and conduct an ongoing trainer-to-trainer programme in relation to Millennium Goals and reducing infant mortality rates. Workers can take a two-week leave from work to do philanthropic missions.
“That probably never would have happened [otherwise] because most mining executives do not know what is happening with the WA health department, so we facilitated a programme between the two which has resulted in Congolese nurses getting additional training,” O’Reilly adds.
Another example of AAMIG’s work in action is work with a university in the Congo. “Locals had complaints that local graduates from that university in geology and engineering weren’t able to get jobs in the mine sites,” says O’Reilly.
“This was because the course didn’t include the relevant information to make them employable. The mining company sourced the relevant technology, paid for computer programs and got it into the local university and now graduates will actually have that skill and be employable locally.” This is tangible, impactful work.
The response, says O’Reilly, has been “very positive”.
“What we want to do is make Australian companies the employers’ choice. So African government will see that our members are backed by a very moral ethical industry group, and say ‘these are the types of people we want working in our country’.”
“It’s not just about offering the best price, or building the best building,” O’Reilly continues. “It is about knowing you have an Australian company that will leave behind a very positive legacy.”