The global bauxite mining industry invests on average more than US$ 400,000 annually per mine in support of community programmes.
Formalised systems are in place to identify and work with stakeholders and develop strategies to address their concerns and expectations. Consideration is given to the local context and to social and cultural factors in order to facilitate understanding and informed discussion. The effectiveness of communication, consultation and participation processes is regularly reviewed with stakeholders.
Community engagement requires resourcing and commitment from both the mining company and the local community. Sometimes only basic level interaction is necessary – providing information about the operation through brochures, newsletters, websites and booths.
During the exploration stages dialogue begins to identify cultural heritage issues, seek access permission and negotiate land use. Community concerns about the impacts of exploration and expectations of future development are addressed.
As the mine plan develops, consultation to ascertain areas of risk and opportunity will take place – usually through meetings, polls, surveys, and focus groups. Interaction is key to the success of community engagement so workshops, learning circles, interviews and reference groups are used to aid discussion, often assisted by external facilitators.
Once operation commences, focus groups and forums are continued to keep people informed. The relationship between the mine and local community is proactively maintained not just activated when there is a problem. Open days, site visits and scheduled personal visits can help to achieve this. To ensure agreements are honoured systems are established to monitor events and dispute resolution plans formalised and communicated.
Local knowledge is also essential for the successful development and execution of rehabilitation programmes. Knowledge on native plant species, ideal growing conditions and biodiversity that resides with individuals or is institutionalised within the community is drawn upon by mine operators to ensure that post mining land retains its pre-mining value.
Planning for closure of a mine is usually initiated at the start of the mine’s life. Companies liaise with communities, government and stakeholders to ease anxieties in the work force and to minimise disruption to services. A final land-use for the rehabilitated mine is usually established with full engagement of all interested parties.
Mining companies recognise the value of local knowledge and that by encouraging empowerment and building relationships there can be long-term sustainable outcomes for all parties, as well as improved capacity to manage significant events such as expansion, closure and rehabilitation.