Mining News

Securing social buy-in for mining projects

Posted by Alana Wilson on 2/27/2014 3:57:41 PM

By Alana Wilson

The March edition of BC business magazine features a great article by Brenda Bouw on the challenges and need for mining companies to secure local buy-in and support for mining projects. The article highlights a number of Canadian mining projects stalled or blocked by local opposition including Bear Creek’s Santa Ana project in Peru, Rosia Montana Mine in Russia, and Taseko’s New Prosperity project near Williams Lake in BC. It also notes a shift within the mining sector itself in response:

While these issues aren’t new, what has changed in recent years is a proactive approach taken by mining companies. Recognizing the increasing importance of gaining community support, mining companies are increasingly willing to publicly embrace responsibilities regarding the environment, human rights and helping communities adapt to having a mining operation in their midst.

For mining companies, the stakes are also higher than they used to be. Increased globalization and the rise of social media are giving their opponents a louder voice, ramping up the risk that disputed projects could be delayed, or canceled outright.

Bouw observes that mining companies are responding in a number of ways including:

  • Spending more time and money to manage relations with stakeholders
  • Expanding outreach beyond just the immediate community
  • Supporting corporate social responsibility projects such as health and nutrition, farming programs, and water improvement projects
  • Contributing to community programs and local employment
  • Working with NGO’s to improve payment transparency to government, address human rights concerns, and ensure that mineral revenues are not funding conflict

In British Columbia, mining companies are also striking agreements with First Nations communities:

Examples include New Gold Inc.’s participation agreement with local First Nations around its New Afton project near Kamloops, which offers training, employment and contracting opportunities. It also includes clauses to ensure proper environmental monitoring and protection. A number of First Nations have also signed agreements with the provincial government to receive a share of mineral tax revenues from mining operations.

Despite these initiatives, Boew notes that protest and opposition still persist. “Even the best-intentioned, most transparent mining company will find it difficult to meet the competing needs and demands of its various stakeholders, says Jim Cooney, a professor at McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development”. He further notes that communities themselves are often divided on the issues around mining projects and mining companies face the additional challenge of engaging with communities “in a way that promotes community cohesion and coherence rather than deepens division that leads to conflict.”

Regardless, mining companies are responding to increasing social expectations and the full article is worth reading to learn more.

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