Mining activist finds sustainable solutions to problems

2019-06-21 10:25
Prishani Satyapal tries to find lasting solutions to serious challenges that the world faces.

Prishani Satyapal tries to find lasting solutions to serious challenges that the world faces.

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Pietermaritzburg-born Prishani Satyapal likes “wicked problems”, and she has taken her activism around the world to find sustainable solutions for vulnerable communities, especially those affected by mining.

Satyapal (43), who now lives in Johannesburg, has travelled to dozens of countries to work with industry to address these challenges, and was even invited to the Vatican to engage on the global issue of mining and leadership.

She spoke to The Witness yesterday from Ghana, where she is assisting the Ghanain government to address healthcare needs of artisanal mine workers.

“We bring stakeholders together to develop solutions to ensure long term well-being of people and ecosystems,” she explained. “We have an equation where we look at the biggest social need in a place, and the biggest waste, and then create responses to them.

“For example, in the case of artisanal mining in Ghana, the biggest need is long-term viability of the sector and the waste. We are working on addressing the need for immediate health interventions and wellbeing while having a thriving small-scale mining industry.”

She said: “We look at social needs and waste, and find the sweet spot.”

Satyapal said her company had spent the last six years facilitating conversations among “very different groups” at a Day of Reflection held at the Vatican, to find common ground around mining and its impact on society.

She was responsible for curating the engagement between mining executives and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

“Mining gains significant criticism,” she said. She said she first attended the engagements to confront unheard experiences of people in the sector. “I created a space for that conversation and reflection to happen.”

Satyapal said her interest in social activism in sectors like mining stems from a deep connection with the environment and being conscious of her role in justice in society. She said she likes confronting “wicked problems” — those which appear impossible to solve.

“Mining shows you impacts in a visible way. You see excellence in engineering and science, but also communities which go hungry.”

After spending many years in the mining sector on the corporate side, in 2013 she started her company, Sustainability Truthing, to create a space for people to work together to activate their leadership in addressing difficult problems. “We need to bring together different professionals to respond to issues,” she said, adding that she would like to continue leading processes of change, empowering young people and teaching going forward.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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