Resources for Good from GeoProMining

Posted on Feb 11, 2012 in GPM in the media

Resources for Good from GeoProMining

10 February, 2012
unofficial translation Русский 

The international mining group GeoProMining, administration of the Ararat district and Armenian Social Investment Fund signed a protocol on cooperation in the region’s social development. The first step in this programme entails the company’s allocation 90 million drams toward the construction of a kindergarten for the community of Aintap. ArmInfo’s correspondent asked CEO Roman Khudoliy, to speak about GPM’s social investment projects and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.

– It seems that with the signing of this protocol, the new year has begun with new social programmes. But first, please sum up the results of the previous year’s CSR programme.

– GeoProMining is in the process of summing up its results for 2011, including our CSR projects. The company is continuing to successfully develop its business in Armenia, Georgia and Russia, and one guarantee of this success is the company’s attentiveness to its employees and the residents of the areas in which our enterprises work.

In Armenia the total social investment budget of GPM Gold and the Agarak Copper-Molybdenum Mine Complex in 2011 exceeded $1.5 million. We carefully analyzed last year’s projects, solicited recommendations from international CSR specialists and consulted with the local governments to help determine the most urgent needs of the local population. Using this information, we compiled the budget for 2012. We continue to develop the main focus areas of our Resources for Good programme, paying particular attention to our relations with employees and their families as well as issues brought up ecologists.

– “Resources for Good” – is that your motto or is it more of a philosophy?

– Well, I would put it this way: it is our philosophical approach; after all, sustainable development is one of the core strategic principles of GPM as a long-term and conscientious investor. So in 2011 the company decided to shift from disconnected projects to a systemic approach to corporate social responsibility, and we launched the Resources for Good programme. It encompasses all aspects of social responsibility – looking after employees, minimizing the environmental impact, taking care of local communities and closely cooperating with government officials in social and economic development efforts. These are the areas that will be the company’s top CSR priorities in 2012.

– As they say, one cannot fight alone. How successful has your CSR cooperation been with local communities or, for example, with the Social Investment Fund?

– Very successful. For several years now GPM has been implementing regional social development projects together with the Armenian Social Investment Fund of the Government of Armenia, which implements World Bank programmes within our country. As a part of our strategic partnership with the fund and local authorities, we invested 308 million drams ($800,000) in a major reconstruction project for the House of Culture in the town of Vardenis, which is an important municipal centre for holding various cultural and public events. This work should be completed by mid-2012.
Today, as you know, our company has signed a new agreement with the Social Investment Fund and the administration of the Ararat district. This is a charity project to build a kindergarten for the community of Aintap. The project that was proposed by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in response to the residents’ needs during his visit to the Ararat district in the middle of last year. Thanks to our active support and that of the fund, the new kindergarten will welcome its first kindergarteners in early 2013.

I would emphasize that continual cooperation with government bodies and local authorities provide GPM an opportunity to respond to the needs of the residents of regions where the company works and to allocate charity funds to the projects which are most essential for the local population. Thus, the company regularly invests in social projects: infrastructure development, fire-fighting capacity, energy supplies, water supplies, repair of hospitals, schools and kindergartens. Support for the most vulnerable segments of the population has traditionally been one of the priorities of GPM’s social efforts. We also make a diligent effort to cooperate with local self-government in engaging in various environmentally oriented activities, town maintenance efforts and the creation of comfortable living conditions for the residents of Vardenis, Ararat and Agarak. In 2011 a substantial amount of funds went toward the acquisition of garbage removal equipment and snowploughs. In 2012 street sweepers and litter disposal containers will be acquired to help maintain cleanliness on the city streets.

– What kind of social privileges, if they can be called that, do the employees of your enterprises enjoy?

– The company behaves as any responsible employer should: salaries at our enterprises are among the very highest in the industry. Training opportunities are provided in various specialities, which helps ensure the professional growth of personnel. Employees are offered a decent social benefits package. Each year all employees undergo medical check-ups in the best medical centres of the country. The company traditionally organizes lively New Year’s celebrations and sports and cultural events for the children of employees.

Right now approximately 815 people work at GPM Gold, and the launch of a new processing line using the unique cutting-edge Albion technology at the Ararat gold extraction plant, the construction of which began in 2011, will create new jobs in the near future. The Agarak Copper-Molybdenum Mine Complex employs 930 people.

I would like to point out the importance of the fact that GeoProMining’s enterprises in Armenia are the core industries of these towns, employing 70-80% of the workforce in Agarak, Vardenis and Ararat. This fact places a great responsibility on us.

– Protecting the environment is one of the most pressing issues persistently facing Armenian society. Thus it’s not uncommon to hear criticism of your company coming from environmental NGOs. What measures are being taken to minimize damage to nature?

– You are quite right – any industrial production has an impact on the environment, and it is the company’s responsibility to minimize this impact. Our company regularly assesses the impact of our operations on the environment and strictly monitors the situation to ensure full compliance with norms.

Thus every step that is taken toward further development of the company is preceded by in-depth consultation with environmental protection specialists. The steps laid out in our production modernization programmeme correspond to the best international practices, as demonstrated by the participation of world class experts and environmental firms such as Fraser Alexander, Epoch, and Digby Wells Environment. The new unique and very expensive Albion technology, which will be used at the Ararat gold extraction plant, corresponds to the highest world environmental standards.

In our work we are oriented toward the regulations and requirements of environmental protection legislation of Armenia, and at the same time we strive to listen to the opinions of local ecologists representing professional environmental organizations, knowing full well the value of such cooperation for the common good of the country. At the same time, it is not uncommon for us to come up against representatives of public organizations which, playing off public opinion formulated by them and without in-depth professional expertise on a particular problem, can stir up a tempest in a teapot. In such situations we are also open to dialogue, but we would prefer that this dialogue take place without a big brouhaha.

– As they say, “man cannot live on bread alone…”

– Traditionally, in all areas where we operate, GPM pays a lot of attention to supporting national traditions, culture and art. We acted as one of the general sponsors of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s independence, playing an active role in the organization and preparation for celebratory events. As an international company, GPM plays an active part in projects aimed at strengthening mutual understanding and expanding bilateral cooperation between Russia and Armenia. Since 2009 the company has been supporting a project aimed at improving the Russian language skills of residents of Armenia. The project is run by the Armenian-Russian Philanthropy Fund for Support of the Russian Language under the auspices of the Russian Embassy in Armenia. GPM finances open computer classes for interactive Russian language instruction. Classes are equipped with modern communication technologies and detailed instructional literature. This charity project promotes the study, advancement and popularization of the Russian language in Armenia as an inseparable part of world culture, a practical instrument for international communication, the working language of the CIS and development of economic cooperation between Armenia and Russia.

Together with the Russian Embassy in Armenia, GPM supports the Stanislavsky Russian Drama Theatre, one of the most prominent cultural institutions in Yerevan and a popular venue for staging plays by Russian and Armenian playwrights. In December 2011, a play called Abanamat, based on several of Sergei Dovlatov’s short stories, debuted at the theatre thanks to financial support from our company.

During visits to Yerevan the group’s top management never passes up the opportunity to become better acquainted with the extremely rich cultural and historical heritage of the Armenian people. During a trip to Armenia near the end of last year, Siman Povarenkin and I visited the Museum of the History of Armenia and with great interest explored the exposition dedicated to the history of Armenia’s mining industry.