Putting Corporate Social Responsibility to Work in Mining Communities: Exploring Community Needs for Central Appalachian Wastewater Treatment
Due to the finite nature of non-renewable mineral and energy resources such as coal, resource extraction is inherently unsustainable; however, mining and related activities can contribute to sustainable development. Indeed, the principles of corporate social responsibility (CSR) require that mine operators design and conduct their activities in ways that provide for net positive impacts on surrounding communities and environments. In Central Appalachia, there appears to be a particularly ripe opportunity for the coal industry to put CSR to work: participation in sustainable solutions to the long-standing problem of inadequately treated wastewater discharges—which not only represent a potential human health hazard, but also contribute to the relatively high incidence of bacterial impairments in surface waters in the region. In this paper, we outline the underlying factors of this problem and the advantages of industry-aided solutions in a region where limited economic and technical resources are not always aligned with social and environmental needs. We also suggest a framework for problem-solving, which necessarily involves all interested stakeholders, and identify the primary challenges that must be overcome in pursuit of sustainable solutions.