Oct 4 - 10, 20

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. It is also known as corporate conscience, corporate citizenship, sustainable responsible business (SRB), or corporate social performance. It is actually about how companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society. CSR has been redefined throughout the years. However, it essentially is titled to aid to an organisation's mission as well as a guide to what the company stands for and will uphold to its consumers.

Experts believe that there is a strong business case for CSR. Corporations benefit in multiple ways by operating with a perspective broader and longer than their own immediate, short-term profits.

Critics however say that CSR distracts from the fundamental economic role of businesses and argue that it is nothing more than superficial window-dressing.

The social sector in Balochistan has suffered from years of neglect and under funding. The local people's demands and needs were not taken into account when the former government of president Musharraf signed agreements with foreign firms for launching mega projects in the province. There has been lack of CSR with regard to the operations of companies on different projects in the province.

Local people have never been against the development of province's resources through attracting foreign investments. The province direly needs investment for the development of its enormous resources in all economic sectors. People have always been apprehensive about their due stake in the development projects, as they were not taken aboard when the authorities in Islamabad signed agreements with foreign companies for the development of local resources. They have ever resented over the virtual control of the centre and aliens over the province's resources.

Known as 'museum of minerals', Chagai is one of the most backward and least developed areas in Balochistan. It absolutely lacks the health care facilities and educational infrastructure. The human development indicators in the district are among most challenging in the country. With no infrastructure, proper road network and no industry, the people of the Chagai desert absolutely lacks the employment opportunities to earn their livelihoods.

Saindak copper project, which was launched by a Chinese firm without undertaking environmental impact assessment (EIA), has depleted Chagai's meager water resources and polluted the environment with toxic substances. Production from Saindak started in 2003. What economic spillover it has brought to the province or at least to the people of Chagai, which are still deprived of basic facilities of life including drinking water, health and education? Saindak project in fact lacks the concept of CSR.

Chagai hills region, which is part of an extended copper-gold belt, is known as Reko Diq, which includes the Tanjeel mineral resource and the western porphyries. Reko Diq mining project is expected to generate mass scale employment of about 6,500 skilled and unskilled workers, transfer of technology, promotion of downstream industries, establishment of new township in the region and place the country on the world minerals map.

Tethyan Copper Co Ltd (TCC) plans to create tremendous economic activity and enormous job opportunities for local people by operating the mega copper mining project at Reko Diq in Chagai district. TCC is a joint venture between Canada's Barrick Gold and Chile's Antofagasta Plc. TCC's vision is to operate a world-class copper-gold mine at Reko Diq, Balochistan in a safe and socially responsible way. The Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the project has been finalised.

International standards set by the World Bank have been followed in EIA of the project in order to avoid, minimise, mitigate or compensate adverse impacts of the project, according to the TCC. The company also plans to use renewable energy opportunities like wind farms, geothermal and biofuels for its operations in Reko Diq.

The feasibility report puts the initial mine development investment for Reko Diq project at $3.3 billion including development of basic infrastructure like power, water and concentrate pipelines, roads, and port development.

The TCC plans to launch basic life skills and vocational training program in partnership with a local NGO. First batch of local employees, 80 per cent from the province and approximately 76 per cent of them are from district Chagai, has already been sent to Descon Institute Lahore. The company is committed to provide training to the local women in tailoring skills for establishing local tailoring businesses to supply TCC uniforms. The human capital approach focuses on the indirect ability of education and health to increase utility by increasing incomes.

TCC plans to take health care initiatives in Chagai. Its initiatives include establishment of free community health centre for immediate communities at Humai and Nocha villages, training of local female health visitors and provision of logistical support for annual national immunisation program in Nokkundi area.

In education sector, the company is committed to provide teacher training, uniforms and stationary for local schools in public sector. It sponsored initiatives like Nokkundi Literacy week in partnership with local NGOs and rehabilitation of water supply schemes in local schools.

"More than 83 per cent of employees at Reko Diq are currently from Balochistan," said Samia Ali Shah, the TCC's manager public relations while talking to this scribe. She said, "We are continually looking for talented, committed and ambitious people to help us shape the evolution of large scale mining industry in coming decades. The residents of district Chagai will be given first priority for positions during planning, construction and operation of mine and processing facilities at Reko Diq, provided that the minimum skill requirement for the positions can be fulfilled."

TCC's commitment to CSR and its priority for creating local stake in the development of mining industry is bound to yield positive results in the province, which is presently facing a mild insurgency. The project has the potential to improve the living standards of local people. The local stakeholders can better protect the development project. With its social welfare programs, the project can set an example for launching other mega projects in restive province.

According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, CSR is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large. Ideally, CSR policy would function as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business would monitor and ensure its support to law, ethical standards, and international norms.