A mining company was seeking to operate in an area with water scarcity in which local women had to walk for about five hours a day to fetch water for household consumption. The company’s production process would require large quantities of water, which it would pump from underground reservoirs. Early on, the company identified the risk that its project approval process would be blocked by local residents due to their concerns about perceived water-related impacts.
In this case, the company engaged with local communities during early stage exploration (i.e., before project impacts became apparent) in order to proactively address their concerns. The company hired an NGO with expertise in working with communities on water issues to help develop sustainable solutions. A water source was identified and the NGO provided the technical expertise and materials to provide piped water to households. The pumps were solar powered and were designed to require low maintenance. The community itself agreed to provide land for the water tanks and labor to dig trenches for the water pipes. The NGO helped the community establish a water committee to collect a user fee from each household that chose to have access to piped water. The ready availability of water in the community allowed women more time to focus on other activities, such as spending more time looking after livestock or tending to their farms.
In this case, engaging early and bringing in an expert third party enabled the company and community to find an approach that proactively addressed the community’s water-related concerns before project impacts began to occur. As the Guiding Principles emphasize, effective human rights due diligence can help to identify and prevent impacts before they eventuate and mitigation or remediation is required. Further research into this case might identify interesting lessons about the sustainability of the company’s approach, and how non-discrimination and affordability of access issues were addressed.