Addressing the balance

Published: 19/06/2013

01/22/2008, published by Mining Environmental Management magazine, Mining Communications Ltd.

How can mining benefit both men and women? This question has been raised time and again in international forums, and has risen to prominence in the policy agendas of major donors, such as the World Bank and International Finance Corp.

WITH increasing attention on the relationship of gender to economic development – specifically the role and levels of participation of women – this question has assumed greater significance for the mining industry. A flagship collaborative project led by Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt of the Resource Management in Asia Pacific Program at the Australian National University (ANU) and Indonesia’s largest coal mining company, Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC), has shown how gender can become a mainstream issue in the mining industry.

Jointly funded by the Australian Research Council, ANU and KPC, the three-year project, Creating Empowered Communities: Gender and Sustainable Livelihoods in a Coal Mining Region in Indonesia, tackles gender equality in the mining industry at two levels – within the company and beyond it in community development projects. “Gender mainstreaming” refers to the process of analysing all organisational policies and programmes to identify the implications for men and women, with a view to minimising negative and maximising positive impacts, and promoting gender equity. The project studied the needs of women and men in communities affected by KPC’s mining operations in East Kalimantan, and conducted an internal gender survey to investigate the status of both sexes within the company.

Since 2002, interest in gender and mining has grown through a series of international conferences organised by Oxfam Community Aid Abroad, the International Women and Mining Network and the World Bank. There is increasing awareness within the mining industry that it must engage with gender equality in its efforts to foster co-operative relationships and sustainable development with local communities.

There is no doubt that large multinational resource companies play an influential role as agents of economic development and social change, particularly in developing countries. As the level of scrutiny and acountability that accompany this role increases, mining companies have begun to address gender issues in different areas of their operations. A number of findings are behind this shift, including evidence that many of the negative impacts of mining are borne by women; that women also have a right to access the benefits of development; and that development projects are more successful when women are involved.


The Creating Empowered Communities project investigated how the empowerment of women within mine-affected communities can contribute to the development of sustainable local livelihoods throughout and beyond the life of a large-scale mining operation. At the core of the project is the belief that identifying and addressing gender-based issues, needs and concerns is crucial for ensuring beneficial development outcomes for local communities.

Understanding local values, customs and conditions which influence the roles and status of men and women is central to designing effective and sensitive community development projects.

In its approach, the project drew on literature and methods in three related fields: social impact assessment, community development within the CSR framework, and gender and development (GAD). Field activities included the mapping and assessment of local women and men’s needs, interests, assets and activities using participatory appraisal through meetings and workshops with community organisations, focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with key informants.

The resulting data is being used to review the work of the KPC Community Empowerment Department, in order to align programmes with identified needs in a way that is responsive to local gender relations and roles. The project also involves the design and implementation of a programme of activities intended to achieve community empowerment through female empowerment. Key elements include the establishment of a micro-credit scheme in combination with training and education to enable local women to generate new forms of income.


Like many other companies, KPC takes a multi-stakeholder approach to community development and has worked closely with local NGOs and government agencies in the development and delivery of community based programmes. In August, a one-day workshop was organised by KPC and ANU project staff in Sangatta to discuss the initial outcomes of the project and broader issues of gender, mining and development. The workshop was the first of its kind and an important step in allowing local women to speak up in a public forum about their own goals, what can be done to improve gender equity and the impacts that mining-driven development has had on the community and women in particular.

Many mining companies tend to think of gender issues as the concern of community development departments, whose work is often viewed as falling outside “core business”. Yet the importance of internal company policies in terms of promoting gender equity is also significant. Increasing and diversifying employment opportunities for women and providing a workplace that is conducive to women’s participation are just as important as increasing the sensitivities of community relations staff to gender issues. This alignment between internal and external company policies and programmes is indeed a key feature of gender mainstreaming. To this end, companies should examine their own internal staff policies with a view to increasing the participation and retention rates of women in the workforce.

It is hoped the project will not only produce cooperative working relationships with women and men in mine-impacted communities, but also play a part in transforming relationships and attitudes within the company. The ultimate objective is to produce practical knowledge and effective gender equitable outcomes for the benefit of all stakeholders, and on a broader scale contribute to the formulation of better strategies and models of best practice for the management of community affairs by mining companies operating in other parts of the world.

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