Why are human rights important?
All organizations are expected to respect and uphold human rights. Mining companies, due to the location of their operations, may come into contact with vulnerable populations. Consequently, human rights have become increasingly important in the mining sector, and industry groups, such as the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), of which Pan American Silver is a member, are incorporating global best practices into their standards. Pan American Silver is committed to upholding human rights, respecting the traditions and cultures of local communities, as well as supporting those communities in understanding and realizing their rights.
|Material Topic||Human rights|
|Sub-Topic||Training of security personnel|
|Definition||Respecting human rights and managing our potential impact on rights holders|
|Feedback From COIs||NGOs and investors requested collaboration on and a visible demonstration of our commitment to human rights.|
|How We’re Responding||We are committed to aligning with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.|
We enhanced the human rights-focus of our annual COI stakeholder survey.
Potential risks and impacts
- Community opposition to mine operations or development resulting in project or production delays, revocation of permits, or loss of social acceptance
- Negative impacts on vulnerable groups
- Security risks and the protection of people and assets
Pan American Silver abides by applicable local human rights laws and is committed to align with key international human rights conventions. Our identification and management of human rights risks and impacts is a component of our social management framework. In addition to our overarching social management framework, our management of human rights includes:
- MAC – Through our membership with MAC, we have committed to implementing a risk-based human rights and security approach consistent with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – Through our work with UNICEF, we have committed to uphold the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Programs and Initiatives
- Community teams – Our site-based teams work with local professionals, including social workers, teachers, and health practitioners to identify potential human rights risks and concerns.
- Training and capacity building – We provide education and training for COIs to help them understand and exercise their rights.
- Social audits – The assessment incorporates human rights and includes a checklist on security and human rights
- Senior management provides oversight of our security program.
Our corporate and site-level risk assessment processes consider social risks including human rights, worker rights, and child and forced labour. We have not identified any operations to be at risk for child labour or forced labour. We similarly have not identified any operation to be at risk for violations of Indigenous’ rights(1). None of the communities near our mining operations have identified themselves as having Indigenous origins and national governments have not made that designation.
Security and Human Rights
The priority for all security programs at Pan American Silver is to protect our people and our assets. Our objective is to act in accordance with local laws while being mindful of international practices and principles, particularly with regard to the use of force. In 2018, we initiated a number of activities under the framework of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, including an assessment of security risks at our operations and projects. At our operating locations, we identified our main security risks to be crime, potential violence associated with labour unrest and civil unrest.
Training of Security Personnel
We carefully review the use of armed private security personnel and its relationships with public security entities. Our goal is to minimize the deployment of armed private security to only those operations where and at times it is deemed necessary. Our compliance program is also a key element of the security process, providing an additional guidance and verification of our relationships, support, and interface with public security forces.
We contract only unarmed private security guards at our sites in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. We contract armed, private security guards at our facilities in Mexico. These contractors have little interaction with community members, and in the event that they do, our priority is the safety of community members and respect for their rights as well as the security of our assets. We therefore require the companies providing security personnel to provide their employees with human rights training according to international standards before allowing these employees at our sites.
Security Incidents at Dolores
In May 2018, an increase in criminal activity and security incidents along the access roads to the Dolores mine in Mexico led us to suspend the transportation of mine personnel and materials to and from the mine. As our primary concern is the safety of our workers, we temporarily curtailed certain mining activities. Following increased patrols and enforcement by the Mexican authorities, the security situation on the access roads improved. Within two weeks, we were able to resume transportation of supplies, and within a month, Dolores was operating at full capacity.
The town closest to the mine site, Arroyo Amplio, was also affected by the insecurity in the area. The majority of the town’s 250 families temporarily left their homes due to concerns for their personal or family safety as a result of the increased criminal activity and security incidents. Pan American Silver has worked hard over the years to build strong relationships with the people of Arroyo Amplio, and it was important to us to ensure that when the community members returned, they had access to food and essential supplies, as well as access to health and education services.
Due to our long-standing relationship with UNICEF, we sought UNICEF Canada’s advice on how best to support the community and restore living conditions to normal. Based on this advice, we:
- Worked with local and regional governments to conduct an assessment of housing conditions
- Helped rebuild vegetable gardens for food
- Arranged for the return of key personnel, including the hospital nurse and teachers for the local school
- Supported the government in deploying a program to assess and treat post-traumatic stress disorder in children and vulnerable groups to help them better transition back into the community
- Worked with the local ejido(2) to restructure the mine’s local procurement program, which had been affected by the conflict
As a result of our response to the security-related issues in the region, and our engagement with Mexican authorities, we have created deeper relationships with the people of Arroyo Amplio. Learning from partners such as UNICEF and sharing these learnings across our Company positions us to better support our neighbours in the future.
- Enhance our social audit tool to include an improved gender, human rights, and security lens in the audit process.
- Develop our security management framework focusing on company-wide processes influenced by international best practices, including the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and UNICEF’s Child Rights and Security Checklist.
- Conduct on-site assessments at Dolores and at the newly-acquired Escobal mine in Guatemala using the UNICEF’s Child Rights and Security Checklist to assess our alignment with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.
(1) The scope of this report does not include our newly-acquired Tahoe mines. We recognize the Indigenous communities near some of those mines and look forward to working with them to address any concerns and achieve mutually positive outcomes. A court ordered ILO 169 Consultation process was underway at the time of our acquisition of the Escobal mine in Guatemala.
(2) Village lands farmed communally under a system supported by the Mexican government.
Education and capacity building
For Pan American Silver, an element of respecting rights is helping our community members to understand and exercise their rights. We conduct education and training for specific groups in our communities, such as women, youth, families, and vulnerable peoples. Over the past few years, we have provided training and education on topics, including:
- Access to education and career opportunities
- Domestic violence, addiction, and vulnerable groups
- Gender equality
- Parenting and healthy homes
- Mother and child health
- Hygiene and sanitation practices
- Sexual health and reproductive rights