Coal & Local Communities
One of the challenges for mining investments is to ensure a positive contribution to poverty reduction and sustainable development at the community level.
Coal provides a significant direct contribution to economic development at a local level, particularly in developing countries. Coal is currently mined in over 50 countries, and worldwide the industry directly employs some 7 million people. Much of the coal industry in developing countries is export oriented. It is a major source of foreign hard currency earnings, as well as saving import costs.
Large scale mines are often the biggest source of income for rural communities. In addition to providing wages for local people, they are also the source of much local economic and social infrastructure – roads, transport, education, water and communications.
Community Development Programmes
Community development is the process of increasing the strength and effectiveness of communities, improving people’s quality of life, and enabling people to participate in decision making to achieve greater long-term control over their lives. Sustainable community development programmes are those that contribute to the long-term strengthening of community viability. Often the most sustainable beneficial legacies that community development programmes may have are in the skills and capacities that training, employment and education programmes for local people provide.
Coal companies are actively involved with the local communities in which they operate. Education and skill development programmes are an essential component in most major coal operations and the cost of schools is often paid in whole or in part by the local mine. Improving the education and skill levels of the local community helps to attract further investment and thereby sustains the community after mine closure.
Some coal companies operate in areas facing severe challenges, where they have become closely involved in local projects aimed at overcoming them. In South Africa, for example, HIV/AIDS is having a major impact on public health and poses a significant threat to labour productivity and sustainable economic development. Coal producers in South Africa actively engage in the fight against HIV/AIDS - this includes actions not only in the workforce but also in the wider community.