Mine + local community = ?

For the past thirty years, there has been a significant increase in environmental legislation and regulation of mining. Lately the mining companies have also become more aware of the possibility of costly conflicts due to social issues. Social conflicts may arise in spite of the economic benefits the mining operations bring to the local communities. Due to the raise of awareness around the world, the mining industry is facing new challenges regarding how to ensure profitability together with inclusive operations and development.

The social license to operate (SLO) concept was introduced in the mid 90´s and the mining industry was one of the firsts to utilize it, mainly to manage the aroused social risks. Previous case studies implicate that there are several good ways of gaining and obtaining SLO. These include e.g. early and ever ongoing communication, transparency and availability of information and consideration of the local culture in decision making. The bodies that can give SLO to a company are often the societies closest to the actual site of mining operations. But does this actually work in practice? How challenging is the implementation of guidelines at sites? Are the mining companies actually walking the talk?

Our group believes the issue is not whether mining should take place or not, rather than how and where it should happen. It is about reforming the ways of mining operations to ensure environmentally and socially acceptable mining in that specific location.

Adjusting to new ways of thinking can be difficult and unfortunately there is not one universal formula for mining companies to gain and maintain SLO. And even well designed and carefully executed projects may not be successful. But one thing is sure, the SLO can only be born when good relationships between different stakeholders are established with time. That is why we wonder; what makes mining company equitable in the eyes of the community? Can a mining company actually fit in to the society or is it always going to be an outsider?

Written by,
Team Fidel: Dukpa Rebecca, Karjalainen Emmi, Kemppainen Jenni, Pakkanen Taru, Sainio Tuomas, Vänttinen Kirsikka

WEEE Leapfrog!

Landfills have been the most common method of organized waste disposal and remain so in many places around the world. What if the developing countries could leapfrog to sustainable waste treatment systems where scarce natural resources can be recycled and health and environmental problems avoided? And at the same time create jobs and healthy businesses?

Waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) such as computers, TV-sets, fridges and cell phones is one the fastest growing waste streams in the world. WEEE is a complex mixture of materials and components that because of their hazardous content can cause major environmental and health problems, if not managed properly. Moreover, the production of modern electronics requires the use of scarce and expensive resources. Therefore, the treatment and recycling of electronics at the end of their life is essential.

Increasing amount of WEEE is a severe and growing problem in many developing countries. For example, in Bangladesh, rapid urbanization and economic growth are big factors behind the increasing amount of WEEE but on top of that, used equipment from developed countries is being sent to Bangladesh often through illegal routes. As Bangladesh does not have a proper recycling system for WEEE, lot of the stuff ends up in landfills where children risking their health often scavenge it.

With these aspects, our solution is to bring WEEE recycling culture and its application technologies in a clean, environment and society friendly way- by WEEE hubs. WEEE hubs designed for an easy way of recycling. These hubs are little hydrometallurgy labs which strategically located on the places where most electronic devices are used by people, like universities, maintenance offices, computer cafeterias (which is a culture in Bangladesh) etc. These hubs will provide people to reach easily and sell their broken and unfixable electronic devices. We are also creating solutions to the potential problematic issues. The question of this concept is- how large system we need to create a win-win solution, while extracting valuable metals such as gold copper and aluminum from WEEEs and let the local people earn some money from their trash, however, at the same time keeping the hazardous solid and liquid waste away from the common areas. Our answer is hidden in our little WEEE hubs; they will let us do the business cleaner and send the products to the bigger refineries outside the cities. We would like to create a sustainable recycling culture, a responsible societies for better future.

“We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”

Recycle WEEE every day!

Written by,
The Toads: Annukka Aaltonen, Kirsi Hakalahti, Mikko Pietilä, Shariful Islam, Tekin Uyan, Tommi Kauppinen

Journey Towards New Business Models in Mining

Can mining industry ever be truly sustainable? As a part of the Sustainability Master Class, the team Systemico is convinced that by entwining future production with utilization of reclaimed sources is the way forward. Through the incentivization across the supply/value chain and an emphasis on ethical and sustainability encouraging traceability of minerals and minimizing the potential for harm, we believe in a better tomorrow.

At this very moment about 50% of all of the copper is in fact already recycled when their primary use has come to an end.

As such, we have two very distinct visions for the future. Firstly, increased re-use of reclaimed materials. At this very moment about 50% of all of the copper is in fact already recycled when their primary use has come to an end. This particular is prospect based on the idea of involving the mining industry actors in the whole cycle of a metal, from the extraction to reclamation. Essentially, it can be thought that environmental harm by mining is justified by economic opportunities it brings in form of employment and sharing proceeds from mining activities in form of taxes or royalties. In primary extraction we are thinking about exploring models based on offering mining as a service where incentives are made to minimize the environmental impact of operation. From there on traceability of the material could be used to see the “mass balance” in the whole system where materials are ending up to and to increase the share of materials recycled.

Secondly, and looking even further into future, if most of the activities in mining are automated, there will be less positive externalities created by the mining industry for the national or local economies. In a case where a conventional mining site of thousands of workers may be made more secure and reliable through use of technology, the need for manpower is considerably diminished. How could this change the approach governments look at mining industry given that the metaphorical (and occasionally real tailing related) spillovers are lessened?

Automated gold concentrator at Kittilä mine. (Photo by Outotec)

The mining industry can become sustainable. In order to achieve the change we just need to think outside the box – actually far outside, and also, minimize the potential negative repercussions. We believe that by developing disruptive new business models a company can create significant competitive advantage in this situation by emphasizing on the sustainable and safer business practices related to mining.

We believe that any such disruptive business model needs to cover the whole cycle of materials, from primary mineral extraction to recycling. Will it be difficult to achieve? No doubt. Can we really do something if we dream big enough? Absolutely. Is this out of the box? So far out that you are a ball.
Written by,
Systemico: Kalle Aerikkala, Ville Ding, Viivi Haimi, Kaisa Manninen, Pekka Mäkinen & Minna Nevalainen
Continue reading “Journey Towards New Business Models in Mining”

Social Sustainability and Social License To Operate in the Mining Industry: Is Win-win Possible?

The goods we utilize everyday appear as mundane, ubiquitous, and even intimate. Thus, have you thought where these everyday products origin from? Have you thought of how many minerals and metals there needs to be extracted and utilized to make the products? And what this extraction of minerals implies in practice for all the stakeholders involved in these mining processes? Ethical consumption, awareness of environmental impact of products, and transparency of companies are today much after sought information for consumers. Retail companies are publishing environmental and social reports about their actions and products. However, the reports do not always include information of obtaining of raw materials for their product, one example is Samsung’s life-cycle assessment of mobile phones. The report suggests that the obtaining of raw-materials for phones is responsible for 52,6% of the environmental impact for phones, but it does not suggest what the reason is for the high percentage. The increasing demand of minerals and metals, with the concurrent consumer demand for ethical mining practices, have put the mining industry in a tough situation.

Whilst the market is demanding more production resources from our common utilities, the local communities affected by mining operations are protesting these actions. To address these issues, we have set up an interdisciplinary group as part of the Sustainability Master Class program facilitated by the University of Helsinki, Helsinki Think Company, Demos Helsinki and Outotec in co-operation. Our group, referred upon as Mind Miners, aspires to lend a helping hand to the mining industry in the journey of becoming socially sustainable. Our aim is to assist the industry by providing them with a practical framework of tools applied the establishment and maintenance of a social license to operate (SLO). The SLO is one of the proposed means to satisfy society’s expectations regarding mining issues, which are often not met in full legal compliance with state regulation.

Mining town in the Peruvian Andes (Photo by: Frank_am_Main/Flickr)

Unlike other businesses, the location of mine is based on the minerals found in bedrocks. Therefore, the mining industry is faced with problems from local communities defending their land against the industry. In terms of social sustainability, the locational choices of the mines might lead to quarrels with the local stakeholders involved. Peru can be mentioned as an example. Although the mining industry has increased the economic growth with 6%, it has not improved the local life, therefore, the locals are disappointed. In many cases the communication with different stakeholders has been inefficient resulting in a general mistrust in the company. The operations might even lament the wishes of the local communities.  These examples underline the importance of careful considerations of the social issues related to mining operations. This implies not only the proper respect of labor rights within the mine, but on a broader scale the inclusion of all of those possibly affected by the operations.

SLO is not only beneficial to the society but also for the company. Both the company and the society can achieve shared benefit by having mutual trust and understanding. An effectively designed SLO will help to improve the living standards of the people located nearby the mining area and reduce and/or eliminate the negative social, environmental, and economic impacts. On the other hand, mining sector can enhance their image with different stakeholders and have uninterrupted mining operations. By having good relation with the key local stakeholders mining companies can enjoy both short term and long term benefits. The SLO is particularly supportive in case of disasters at the mining site. Accidents happen, but if the SLO is not tuned properly then the actions of the mines might be shot down by the local community. Losing the SLO might mean losing the mine totally.

It is nicer to live with neighbors that you get along with, than with people you can’t stand.

Therefore, is it important to remember to lift the positive aspects of the mining industry forth, rather than expressing the negative aspects. Mining has been around for centuries, and creates jobs in rural areas where unemployment rates otherwise would be high. As John Maynard Keynes said “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones”. We wish to break old ways of thinking and find nearest route to a solution where everyone benefits for mining industries when obtaining SLO’s. Most importantly it is to remember to listen to the wishes of the local communities and to assess the relevance of different stakeholders. Even if the locals do not have too much power to influence the business itself, their opinion is vital for miners to operate. It can almost be compared to a neighbor feud. It is nicer to live with neighbors that you get along with, than with people you can’t stand. The same could be said about mining. Without stakeholder’s trust the operations would be difficult and problematic.

Written by
Mind Miners: Aryal Nabin, Fustioni Pirke, Häkkinen Anu, Ikonen Anna, Nieminen Lotta, Sarttila Emmi and Vehmaanperä Paula

The Versatility of Sustainability

The Sustainability Master Class, organised by the University of Helsinki, is well connected with Outotec’s sustainability mission and the sustainability-related challenges, with which Outotec’s value chain is faced.

Sustainability is becoming an increasingly powerful and complex driver in the metals and mining sector. In addition to environmental impacts, or resource-use related issues of the sector, there are also social, human-related impacts, far more difficult to define and to measure. It is becoming increasingly important for companies to start proactively integrating these issues in their strategies, risk management, technological development, human resources, supply chain management and many other functions.

Cooperating with the University of Helsinki will give Outotec a great advantage both of getting access to different branches of science simultaneously and thus a truly interdisciplinary approach, but also to young students and their out-of-the-box thinking. A combination of fresh thinking, interdisciplinarity and scientific robustness will indeed foster a field of new innovation in sustainability in our business environment.


I think content-wise, we have managed to capture some large trends, as well as opportunities and risks of the sector. These form three (strongly interlinked) challenges, for which the participants would try to find solutions.

The first challenge relates to the social license to operate, including social impacts of metals and mining, but heavily linked with the environmental impacts.

The second challenge, covering technology leapfrogging, is an interesting concept in context of the metals and mining sector. It allows the adoption of cleaner, state-of-the art technology, where prior technology has not been adopted yet, thus leaping over resource-intensive, dirtier technologies.

Given my own background, I firmly believe, that both of these above mentioned challenges, if dealt with responsibly and strategically, will be sources of competitive advantage. This leads to the third challenge, which comprises of the business case for sustainability – or strategic sustainability, as I call it sometimes. Instead of seeing sustainability as a mere cost factor, or compliance issue, we should start seeing it as a competitive edge. Saving earth’s natural resources means that we are saving energy and raw materials, leading directly to cost savings – and to more profitable business.

Developing solutions, with reduced risks for the surrounding society will have a direct business impact as well, since the continuity of operations is more certain and penalty payments might not occur. Being able to meet the tightening environmental/social legislation is something that some of the customers already require.

Also investors are setting certain requirements and this has an impact on the stock price. I guess this is the ultimate sign of sustainability becoming a business issue – investors are quick and agile in finding ways to improve the return on their investments. Even though with a very rational, mathematical and profit-focused approach, the enthusiasm of investors in sustainability is clearly a sign of the markets appreciating responsible and sustainable activities. In fact, I don’t mind under which label sustainable actions are being compartmentalized – environmental improvements, social acceptance, or financial gains – as long as these lead to concrete actions reducing the strain we have been causing so far.

Working with these issues with the participants will be an action for cross-pollinating ideas, awareness and know-how between Outotec, University of Helsinki and all participants from amazingly different backgrounds. I was happy to see a list of so many participants, with extremely proficient qualifications.  I am sure we will be able to generate some great and sustainable solutions to our challenges!

By Susanna Horn
Life Cycle Model Development Manager, Outotec
Sustainability Master Class Mentor

Applying for Sustainability Master Class is Open

The University of Helsinki and Outotec will launch in December 2016 a challenge-based Sustainability Master Class program for students, young researchers and professionals who are interested in new approaches to innovation as well as learning by doing and co-creation as tools for building a vision and concrete solutions for a sustainable future.

In the coming decades, increasing urbanization and the growth of the middle-class will put a strain on natural resources and environment. There will be a growing demand for metals and minerals, and this makes it crucial to optimize resource usage and build a circular economy as well as decouple wealth and ecological footprint. The achieve this, collaboration between different stakeholders is essential.


The multidisciplinary Sustainability Master Class will discuss and tackle issues such as social impacts and social license to operate in the mining industry, the integration of sustainability into business decisions, disruptive business models as well as technology transfer and leapfrogging. During the four month long program multidisciplinary teams will explore, analyze and challenge the topics and create new solutions to specific problems (re)defined as part of the process. The University’s entrepreneurial community Helsinki Think Company and Demos Helsinki will take part in facilitating the process, and a group of mentors and hand-picked experts will support the teams in their work from start to finish.

40 participants will be chosen for the program through open call. The participants get to know the subject with the help of experts and build new procedures in the field of sustainability. The program contains joint meetings, workshops, science camp and 2-day bootcamp. The program is challenge based and solutions are built upon co-creation and experimentations. Master Class is held in English and it is worth three ECTS credits.

Search for participants is open now, and it closes on Friday, the 4th of December. I have attached a PDF document, where you can find the official call for applications and more information about the program. More information about the program can be found from our website.

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