Five Steps to Improve Your Mine Site Assessments

Carrying out site assessments to identify supply chain risks is a significant investment of both time and resources. To ensure that ‘boots on the ground’ assessments are not only cost-effective but valuable*, it is crucial to approach them with a strategic mindset. This Insight outlines how to master mine site assessments, enhance efficiency and extract maximum value from the process.

*Effective site assessments can create mutual benefits for both the assessing company and the site being evaluated. They play a crucial role in identifying and managing supply chain risks, building trust and understanding and facilitating knowledge exchange. In this respect, site assessments diverge significantly from audits. Audits aim to confirm a company’s adherence to specific standards or regulations. Site assessments on the other hand focus on understanding a company’s current state and building a plan for ongoing improvement.

1. Understand the legal and industry context

Before embarking on a site assessment, define the purpose and requirements – whether driven by legal compliance**, industry standards or consumer demands. This allows the assessor to customise the assessment to address specific concerns and risks and ensure alignment with the necessary benchmarks. Additionally, it establishes a clear assessment scope and guides the assembly of a skilled team.

**Legal requirements often lack specific requirements regarding the timing and methods of conducting site assessments. For instance, the German Supply Chain Act merely stipulates that enterprises must conduct appropriate risk analysis. Industry practices and benchmarks play a significant role in defining what is considered standard and appropriate.

The Kumi team conducting a site assessment of an ASM (artisanal and small-scale mine) mine in Rwanda.

The Kumi team conducting a site assessment of an ASM (artisanal and small-scale mine) in Rwanda.

2. Do your homework

Before the mine site assessment, conduct thorough research from public sources and documentation from the site itself. This will build an understanding of the operational landscape and ensure that the site visit is conducted smoothly, effectively and focused on key risks.

A mine site’s primary function is not to facilitate site visits, but rather to operate and produce. The individuals you’ll be interviewing are busy professionals with other responsibilities. Therefore, use your time with them wisely, focusing on prioritised key issues identified through your research. By respecting people’s time, you not only optimise efficiency but also create a better atmosphere and establish a good relationship – crucial elements for building a long and trusted partnership.

Tip 1: Encourage dialogue and foster a climate where ideas and problems can be openly discussed – you are there to create learning and improvement opportunities not to judge.

Tip 2: Ensure you have the people with the right expertise in the room by being clear about which topics you plan to cover.

At Kumi, we partner with local experts to address language and cultural aspects in site assessments.

At Kumi, we partner with local experts to address language and cultural aspects in site assessments.

3. Assemble the right team

Based upon the preliminary research, assemble the right team for the specific requirements of the site. This may draw in internal resources*** or external experts. Consider gender diversity and language proficiency to ensure effective communication and coverage of issues. By matching expertise with identified concerns, the assessment team can effectively address key issues and maximise the value of the site visit.

***Including roles such as the commercial department in due diligence activities can be cost-efficient and give valuable insights when identifying risks. Trading/sourcing teams often engage in commercial on-site visits to suppliers and maintain long-standing partnerships, so their accumulated knowledge can significantly streamline the due diligence process. To ensure that environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations are not perceived as obstacles in the sales process, educate internal stakeholders on how due diligence can support their role and objectives.

Example: Risks such as child labour or unsafe working conditions can profoundly affect a business’s reputation and long-term sales and performance. Therefore, it’s in the interest of the commercial team to detect such risks as early as possible.

4. Prepare a solid assessment plan

A well-defined site visit protocol serves as a roadmap for the assessment process and functions as an important checklist to ensure that no essential elements are overlooked. While having a standard protocol is a useful starting point, recognise that each site is unique and the protocol will need to be adjusted and customised according to the individual circumstances.

Example: At Kumi, we conduct diverse site assessments for different types of mines. While our approach remains consistent, our protocols and questions vary significantly based on the specific site, whether it’s an ASM mine in Bolivia or a large-scale copper mine in the DRC.

5. Communicate and Follow-Up

The outcome of a successful site assessment lies not in data collection but in action. To achieve real improvement, the assessor should discuss expectations, openly communicate findings and identified gaps and outline actionable recommendations. The assessor should ensure that site stakeholders can ask questions and raise concerns throughout the assessment process. For effective risk mitigation, the evaluated site and assessing team should agree an action plan of measures and how these will be monitored.

Site assessments are a crucial tool for downstream companies to conduct enhanced supplier due diligence. They uncover the factual circumstances of mineral extraction, transport, trade, handling, processing and exportation. They can lead to improved mutual understanding and trust between buyers and suppliers, encourage the exchange of information and facilitate collaboration to mitigate risks. By applying the five steps outlined here, organisations can enhance the efficiency and value derived from site assessments and drive responsible business practices.