Mrs Julie Reid Forget (Transfert Environment & Society)
Mining projects present both opportunities and challenges : while it represents a great social and economic opportunity, some communities nevertheless remain reluctant to hosting mining projects. Regulators and public officials are also becoming increasingly sensitive to communities’ concerns regarding proposed projects. Communities want to make sure they are well-informed to effectively know their trade-offs and clearly engage in stating conditions of social acceptance of a project. The participatory process is effectively now considered a key criteria in assessing the environmental permit application. This is actually why the community engagement process became known as the “social licence”.
Although the Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) effect is particularly strong in this industry, there is however a great opportunity for community-sensitive site selection and facility design, which often are highly dependent on the access to the resource. Engaging with communities can become tensed and unpleasant and regulators could hesitate, if a proponent did not consider the key factors surrounding the communities’ reluctance or opposition to its proposed project.
After years of experience in the community engagement processes related to mining projects, social acceptance and participation practitioners now understand the common features defining a project and the actual social conditions upon which communities base their assessment when faced with proposals for new mine sites. These factors or social acceptance criteria and the level at which a site can meet the various criteria represent a strong tool in developing a project that will work. Using the principles of multi-criteria analyses, project teams can self-assess the project with predetermined social, environmental and technical factors that takes a community perspective instead of an expert perspective. These factors with a selected weight forms a community acceptance index that can assist project teams in choosing the most acceptable site or facility characteristics from a community’s standpoint. It can also be connected to the risk analysis process. This exercise provides a social acceptability and sensitivity measurement and unique community perspective of a project and can also be used as a monitoring device to social performance throughout the project cycle with various adaptations at key milestones. The index can be constructed with various degrees of participation internally and externally. Using these social acceptance factors and quantification as early intelligence and as a monitoring device is a strategic and cost-effective approach for mining organizations, since it is now common knowledge that controversy, outrage and political pressure can be responsible for unwanted delays and can thus be very costly in the long run.
The presentation will provide an overview of our community acceptance tool, present case studies on which criteria were developed, recommend various internal and external usages to select, understand and monitor projects.