Our neighbouring communities
We recognise that the long-term sustainability of our business is dependent on establishing and maintaining enduring and effective relationships with our neighbouring communities that are characterised by mutual respect, active partnerships and long-term commitment.
Since its establishment as Namibia's first uranium mine 39 years ago, Rössing Uranium has recognised that contributing towards the sustainability of our neighbouring communities is a corporate responsibility.
We also acknowledge that operating within a sustainable community gives our business distinct benefits such as skilled and locally available employees, capable and local suppliers of goods and services, access to sustainably managed natural resources, and healthy and safe environments for our employees and their families.
In 2015, therefore, we successfully continued our efforts to maintain these mutually beneficial relationships.
The Rössing Foundation junior library in Arandis is well utilised by young learners.
We are aware that our operations impact the communities and society in which we operate in various ways. We regard the responsible management of our community and stakeholder relationships as being as necessary to our business success as the management of our operations.
To this end, we take great care in understanding and responding responsibly to our neighbouring communities in order to maintain a positive social performance overall. The next few pages illustrate some of the many activities implemented by various sections of the mine during the reporting period.
Even though we faced various production and market challenges during 2015, we remained steadfast in honouring our corporate social responsibility. This we do through continued and generous investments, supporting the sustainability of our neighbouring communities.
We accurately maintain various due diligence processes to understand and mitigate possible operational impacts on them. In addition, we continue to focus on sustaining mutual beneficial relations with our stakeholders.
As always, we strongly support the national socioeconomic development priorities. To this end we align our community and social investment focus with the requirements of Namibia's Mining Charter.
The Charter, overseen by the Chamber of Mines of Namibia, is aimed at positively and proactively addressing sustainable and broad-based economic and social transformation in the Namibian mining sector and is grounded in key Government policies such as Vision 2030 and the National Development Plan 4 (NDP4).
Throughout 2015 we ensured accoun- tability by tracking our compliance against the charter's targets.
During the year under review, we com mitted just more than N$18 million towards the implementation of community initiatives and activities. This is over and above the direct and indirect economic benefits we created through local employment and procurement of goods and services from local businesses. Although we channel most of our community and social investments through the Rössing Foundation, we also supported various community investment initiatives directly.
The Rössing Foundation was established in 1978 through a Deed of Trust as a vehicle to oversee the mine's corporate social responsibility activities in Namibia.
The Foundation focuses mainly on programmes which target:
- improved primary and secondary education through the implemen- tation of various learner and teacher support programmes;
- local workforce and specialised vocational skills development through the provision of scholarships, apprenticeships and part-time study opportunities; and
- local economic diversification and strengthening through the support of small- and medium-scale enterprise development.
Because we pro-actively promote healthy, safe and environmentally responsible lifestyles amongst our neighbouring communities, we also made direct contributions to initiatives targeting:
- increased awareness of personal health and HIV/Aids;
- biodiversity protection through support of the annual birdwatching event; and
- waste management activities at local primary and secondary schools.
A highlight of the year was a safety awareness initiative, called Project Safety W.I.S.E. , implemented in partnership with AREVA Resources Namibia and the Directorate of Education, Arts and Culture of the Erongo Regional Council. This three-year initiative aims to support the creation of a safety culture amongst primary education learners in Arandis, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Teacher support materials were developed to enhance the delivery of personal safety themes contained within the national primary education curricula.
The materials focused on topics such as safety risk assessment; prevention of drug and alcohol abuse; the importance of healthy sleeping and eating habits; the dangers of playing at heights and in confined spaces; electricity and fire safety; and water and traffic safety, amongst others.
Tailor-made stories, songs, poems, puppet shows, activity sheets and illustrations depict situations relevant to the learner at home, on the way between home and school, and at school to teach children about safety in an interactive and fun way.
Rössing Uranium hosted its 15th annual birdwatching event in 2015. Every year aabout 50 learners
from schools in Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis and local bird guides participate.
The event is part of the Rio Tinto Birdlife International partnership and is locally commemorated as part
of the Coastal Biodiversity Week.
We believe that if learners are exposed to safety awareness in small and progressively increasing quantities throughout their education, it will become part of their behaviour throughout their lives. We further believe that children skilled in assessing their own safety and the safety of others are less vulnerable to injuries and even death.
We also support other initiatives such as the Erongo House of Safety in Swakopmund through our partnership with the Erongo Development Foundation; the Swakopmund Museum; the West Coast Safety Initiative; the B2 emergency response pilot programme coordinated by the Arandis Town Council; as well as the Arandis Investment Conference and uranium festival held in August 2015.
We continued to celebrate top-performing teachers and learners in our host region through the Regional Directorate of Education, Arts and Culture and by supporting prize-giving events at all schools in the region.
In addition to our financial contributions, we used our employees' technical expertise to engage with the public and with community-based organisations in order to increase health, safety and environmental awareness within the Erongo Region.
One such activity is the radiation safety training offered to members of the public in collaboration with the Namibian Uranium Institute. We also provided expertise to the Namibian Uranium Association on water management issues to reduce the mining sector's footprint on regional water resources.
External and internal communication activities
Rössing Uranium's Corporate Communications section has developed various platforms and activities to establish, nurture and maintain good relationships and information sharing about our operations with stakeholders. These include our internal stakeholders such as employees and contractors, as well as our external stakeholders.
During the reporting year, various strategic communication functions were carried out in order to disseminate information via a multitude of channels in the print and electronic media, as well as by means of face-to-face communication.
Our visitors' programme is a key means of engaging guests from around the world. It welcomes specialists, academics, Government officials and members of the public. In 2015, we hosted 49 tours to the mine for a total of 900 visitors.
Some of the prominent visitors in 2015 were a group from the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy's Namibia Chapter, mining students from the Colorado School of Mining in the US, and the British High Commissioner to Namibia.
We kept the Namibian Government well informed about our operations. This was accomplished through the mine's senior management engaging politicians and senior Government officials on matters of mutual interest. A number of stakeholder engagement events with the Namibia business community were also hosted to share information on our business performance throughout the year.
Media relations were facilitated through the management of various media enquiries, as well as a number of information-sharing events with the media that resulted in continued relationship-building and balanced coverage.
Various other communication activities involved a number of external stakeholders. We hosted the 15th annual Rio Tinto Rössing birdwatching event, which is part of the larger partnership between Rio Tinto and Birdlife International. We also hosted the 24th Rössing Marathon National Championship, which attracted around 250 athletes. The competitors participated in a marathon and a 10 km-race, while a 5 km-fun walk was held in aid of the Cancer Association of Namibia.
In 2015 the cash and in-kind sponsorships and donations effected through the Corporate Communications section totalled N$329,000.
Rössing Uranium's stakeholder engagement activities include social events for employees and their families (photo left),
as well as an annual fun walk in aid of the Cancer Association of Namibia (photo right).
Staff volunteerism has proven to be a positive conduit for improving staff commitment, instilling new and valuable job skills, and thereby advancing one's career. Volunteering also increases one's social and relationship skills as it facilitates a personal connection with the community. Of course, it is also a fun and easy way to explore personal interests and passions. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals, and organisations in need.
Our volunteer programme joined the Arandis Town Council in bringing colour to the town's Orphans and Vulnerable Children Centre. In 2015 we launched our employee volunteer programme, called Rössing in the Community, with a colourful bang. Employees, supported by Arandis residents and members of the Arandis Town Council (ATC), painted a house that will serve as a new soup kitchen for vulnerable residents and an office block for community-based organisations.
About 60 people, each armed with a paint brush, came together to give the house - donated by the ATC - a much-needed paint-over. Of course, only after a proper risk assessment and Safe Shift Start was done!
The employee volunteer programme aims at encouraging and supporting employees to get involved in volunteer activities within our neighbouring communities. Painting the soup kitchen presented a fun opportunity to get many people involved. It also created a natural synergy with our corporate and social investment approach of local business development and food security to vulnerable members of society. Manfred Murangi of the Office of the Mayor in Arandis also joined the painting and said that the ATC is aiming to address the identified needs of the town's vulnerable community with this initiative and that our volunteer programme "is a step in the right direction". He made a point to thank our employees for reaching out to the Arandis community.
While taking a break from all the painting in the hot sun, Victor Rooinasie, foreman of our Contractor management and Building maintenance sections, who has been living in and helping the Arandis community for the last 35 years, said: "Being able to help the children and vulnerable members of society makes me proud. We have to do our part while we still have time to do so."
The day of volunteering in Arandis was a great team effort and a big success.