Jon Samuel is Group Head of Responsible Business Partnerships for Anglo American and also a trustee of the Anglo American Foundation. The Foundation is a charity funded by Anglo American plc, the multinational mining company with headquarters in London. It is the worlds largest producer of platinum, with around 40% of world output, as well as being a major producer of diamonds, copper, nickel, iron ore and metallurgical and thermal coal. Anglo American pioneers sustainable mining standards within the mining industry, and has an extensive Sustainable Mining Plan which Jon helped to develop. Jon has worked with Engineers Without Borders UK on behalf of the Anglo American Foundation for 14 years, and the partnership has created incredible value for both parties.

What does your role consist of at Anglo American?

My work focuses on our socio-economic development work, pursuing financing opportunities in the sustainability space, and building on Anglo American’s leadership position in responsible mining standards. I’ve been with Anglo American for 14 years and part of the core team that developed our Sustainable Mining Plan. I am also Anglo American’s lead representative at the International Council on Mining Metals.

Could you tell us about Anglo American’s Sustainable Mining Plan?

The Sustainable Mining Plan outlines our plans to address critical environmental, social and governance challenges facing our industry and our host communities. Population growth and the energy transition are leading to a growing demand for mined materials and the plan is our attempt to deliver those minerals in a responsible manner.

Our approach will transform how our stakeholders experience our business, and will ensure enhanced community development benefits and a much-reduced environmental footprint – in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The intention is for the Sustainable Mining Plan to foster innovation and deliver step-change results across the entire mining value chain, from mineral discovery right through to marketing.

When did you first become aware of Engineers Without Borders UK?

I became aware of Engineers Without Borders UK shortly after joining Anglo American 14 years ago. Anglo American already had a relationship with the UK organisation and were working closely with their team, back when their team was much smaller. The foundation has been supporting Engineers Without Borders UK since then, assisting in their establishment and the development of the movement.

Can you tell us about Anglo American Foundation’s involvement with Engineers Without Borders UK?

Historically our relationship with Engineers Without Borders UK has been a reasonably traditional funding model, with particular support of the Engineering for People Design Challenge. Engineers from Anglo American are also involved as judges for the challenge, which is always an excellent way to get our team involved. In addition, we offer strategic advice and help connect them with other businesses. We’ve also supported the development and growth of Engineers Without Borders South Africa to increase their impact in the region and help them become more established. It has been hugely rewarding for us to watch Engineers Without Borders UK emerge as a leader in the global Engineers Without Borders network. We see it as an incredibly valuable long term partnership, which isn’t something you get to experience very often.

Can you tell us about the progress of the partnership and your hopes for the future?

We have a firm belief that good engineering skills will be essential for addressing sustainability challenges. Engineering education currently doesn’t equip students with the skills they need to engage successfully with communities impacted by projects – technical competency isn’t enough. It would be better for the whole profession if students were more literate in sustainability. This is often why projects go over budget – it’s not technical issues but sustainability and stakeholder issues, e.g. local community/interest groups objecting to a project. Developing projects that are responsible and sustainable is more work up front, but it protects people and the environment and prevents huge costs of projects being cancelled or delayed. In the future, we would love to get more Anglo American employees involved in Engineering Without Borders UK initiatives.

What does globally responsible engineering mean to you?

Designing and delivering projects that are respectful of community requirements and appropriate for all stakeholders. Globally responsible engineering means being mindful of sustainability and human rights.

Why is globally responsible engineering beneficial? 

For many reasons, including the need to address critical challenges for humanity, but also for business reasons. As I mentioned previously, many engineering projects go over budget due to stakeholder, sustainability and local community objections. If we can foster more responsibly educated engineers, we can help prevent these issues, which can save huge amounts of money and disruption long term. I’ll give you a tangible example to consider… a few years ago we counted at least £26 billion of investment in other companies’ mining projects that were held up due to various stakeholder concerns. It has also been estimated that one day of delays on a large mining project can cost £2-3 million per day. Engineers Without Borders UK provides a grassroots solution to this issue – helping to reduce unnecessary disruption by educating engineers to properly consider stakeholder/community interests from the beginning of a project. This helps to avoid financial loss through cancellations and delays that could have been prevented with thorough consideration.

Do you have any advice for other companies that may be interested in getting involved with Engineers Without Borders UK?

A good way to get started is to find an activity that you can support long term and that is relevant to your business – a regular project, design challenge, or event.

Jon Samuel: Head of Responsible Business Partnerships for Anglo American

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