Amur Mineral Corporation is working with local communities to minimise the impact of its mining operations while creating jobs. We speak to CEO Robin Young about the company's Amur Kun-Manie project in Russia.
Amur Mineral Corporation (AMC) is a nickel copper sulphide mineral exploration company listed on the London Stock Exchange, but focused on the far east of Russia. The company's principal asset is the Kun-Manie project located in Amur Oblast, where drill-defined resources have been uncovered.
Now the deposits have been identified, the next stage is to take this through to production. CEO Robin Young says: “As we develop the project, I would anticipate a point in time where someone approaches us to purchase it from the project. Until that point, the main mission is to enter production.”
Young is a geological engineer with 40 years’ experience working in the international mineral and resource sector, having worked his way from core logging through to executive management. He says: “I inherited the role and started as a consultant to the company. As the company decided to go public, the owners asked me to be the CEO. The rest is history.”
AMC's presence in the Amur Oblast area is creating jobs for locals, along with several other achievements. The project is also generating a lot of interest within local communities and the press. Young says: “We have been getting positive television press out of the Russia 2 television channel. They’ve been to our project site, interviewed us and have been very excited about the fact we are creating up to 2,000 jobs. There’s a great deal of curiosity and excitement as to what our project can do for the community.”
Working with the locals is of the utmost importance to AMC, as it's integral to the success of the project that the community is consulted and engaged. Young says: “There are three communities located near our project site, all within 300km, and most of our summer help is hired from this area.
“We are proactive in providing gainful employment to a significant number of people in the local area and when people go home from these programmes, their quality of life is affected from working with us. That in itself is a good way of engendering a desire for us to offer full time jobs in the area. The communities have a very strong positive feeling towards the company and what we can bring moving forward with the project.”
This kind of community engagement not only benefits the people in the local area, but keeps stakeholders supportive as the project slowly unfolds. The company intends to set up specific programmes in the future where it'll be even more involved in the community as Amur Kun-Manie develops. Young says: “We want to be ahead of the game and have the backing of the communities by providing education programmes and improving schools. These are small villages of 200-500 people, not major cities or towns.
“It’s about being there and being supportive of the people. There's a lot of unemployment in the region so we aren’t going to bring in 1000 foreign people to do that work. It’s going to be 990 local, and 10 foreign. Over time we will work those numbers to be 100 percent Russian.”
As well as working closely with the communities to show how the mines will work for them, AMC is maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the appropriate Russian authorities and agencies, which will help to provide information for the public.
AMC looks at the impact of the project on each village, town and city individually. Young says: “We looked at what part of the plan could affect the people of the city of Zeya, which provides hydroelectric power to our smelter. Is there anything in that plan that is going to create a problem? We develop a detailed design plan to understand what and who we are going to impact and then address any issues before going into the final details. This way the community is actually part of the plan to advance the project. It’s a very important aspect.”
As with any project, there are challenges. For instance, being a western company in Russian presents its own problems. Young explains: “Everyone thinks, inappropriately, that we have a political agenda. In actuality, we do not. Most of the people, contractors etc., we've worked with don’t see us as a foreign company. There’s a concern that we are not there to simply create jobs and to mine the project – when that’s exactly what we're doing. The challenge has been to communicate that we are a positive company with a positive influence on the community. We are not a bunch of bad guys.”
It's not just this perception that brings difficulties, but the worldwide view of mining as a whole. According to young, many people don't understand the benefits the industry brings to our modern world. Young says: “If a person doesn't want mines to be active then they'd have to give up their mobile phone, gold jewellery and so much more. It’s a weird way of looking at it but it’s the truth. People don't see this and that’s the reason why there is such a negative view of the industry.”
AMC are working to combat industry myths with media coverage and community engagement. Young concludes: “Success is in the relationships. Good, transparent, positive, open clean relationships. It’s really important to have that trust.”
As a late stage exploration project with detailed engineering work being undertake, Kun-Manie represents one of the largest potential sulphide nickel operations in the world which could place it among the top ten nickel producing companies on an annual basis. Yet, Young insists that AMC’s focus is ensuring that the mine benefits the local community and busts prominent mining myths. So far, AMC has completed 5,903 metres of drilling (about 30 percent of the planned programme), so the advantages of Kun Manie are not yet fully formed. Watch this space.