1.3 Leading practice

Leading practice considers the latest and most appropriate technology applied to seeking better financial, social and environmental outcomes for present stakeholders and future generations. A long-term timeframe is considered so that potential adverse outcomes are managed in both the short and long terms.

Consideration of long-term outcomes is particularly challenging as the predictive data sets may be incomplete, a number of variables may modify the outcomes, and actual outcomes may not be fully understood or predicted. Nevertheless, leading practice demands that a best estimate of future impact is assessed and reasonable steps are taken to implement financially, socially and environmentally appropriate outcomes. The level of precision of such estimates also needs to be communicated.

Leading practice is about identifying, using and possibly developing appropriate technology in an enterprise to provide enhanced outcomes for all stakeholders. A key feature is the measurement of variables and performance outcomes to identify potential modifications to the processes for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders.

Leading practice includes a program to monitor inputs, processes and outputs. This information is incorporated in one or a number of managements systems. This may be incorporated in existing management systems such as safety management systems, environment systems and quality systems.

Leading practice includes being able to identify and manage competent technologists and communicators and ensure that they participate in programs to maintain their competence. A peer review process is important to ensure leading practice evolves with changing technology and social expectations and standards. While not essential, active participation in the application of teaching and research activities should be considered.

Useful information is available from professional bodies such as the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Engineers Australia, the Safety Institute of Australia, the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists and the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, as well as government authorities and industry representative bodies.

Airborne contaminants include dusts, gases, fumes, odours, and airborne biological material. They may produce some financial, social or environmental adverse outcomes. The emission may:

  • be a one-off event due to some plant or system failure, such as a major fire
  • be intermittent but regular, such as blasting fumes
  • be continuous and considered acceptable in terms of the risk of adverse short-term outcomes.

These all need to be fully investigated and appropriate measures taken. The outcomes need to be monitored and the process periodically reviewed.

Noise emissions may have a number of forms, from single or intermittent events to continuous noise. Noise also has several dimensions, including intensity and signal frequency. Vibration may or may not be connected to noise emissions in an indirect way.

Leading practice also examines the varied nature of the impacts of airborne contaminants, noise and vibration. Impacts may affect workers, passing members of the community and local residents. The impacts may also have some environmental implications that need to be considered.

Particular consideration is given to the sources and impacts as they relate to mining operations and quarries. To investigate the sources and impacts, a detailed analysis of the mining inputs, outputs and processes is required. This extends from exploration, project design and evaluation, through construction, commissioning and operations, to decommissioning and closure. The process of assessment also requires a characterisation of the materials extracted and consumed in the mining and processing activities. The potential and unintended interaction of these materials also needs to be considered.

Before embarking on leading practice systems, it is important to ensure there is a level of agreement between stakeholders on what are the broader objectives of the enterprise. From the perspective of shareholders or investors, there is a clear need to ensure that an acceptable financial return is obtained. Leading practice systems seek to manage financial and sovereign risk by ensuring all the stakeholders are engaged and considered, so that outcomes are not just expressed as the financial bottom line but rather as a triple bottom line that includes financial, social and environmental positive outcomes for all stakeholders.

Social outcomes include a broad range of issues including worker safety, long-term worker health, community health, and freedom from community annoyance or outrage. The community may extend beyond nearby residents and include state and national authorities and pressure groups. A part of the process of ensuring broad community support is the need to establish and promote the concept of the ‘value chain’, in which the full range of stakeholders gain a reasonable level of benefit from the mining operations. Any groups that can demonstrate that they have been disaffected have the potential to apply political or other pressure on mining operations.

With most management systems, it is important to identify and characterise the various stakeholders who participate in or have potential to disrupt the project under consideration. The different stakeholders need to be identified, as do their values and objectives. In leading practice, some strategy for communicating with different stakeholders needs to be developed. It is important to identify stakeholder networks and explore how effective different approaches might be. Consultative groups with local representation should be formed as a conduit for communicating with the community. Local and regional interest groups should be consulted.

In leading practice, stakeholders need to be engaged so they have some sense of control, responsibility and ownership. The success of the project then becomes a benefit to each stakeholder. This creates an environment where potential problems and conflicts are identified at early stages and their management can be incorporated into the project systems.

Dialogue also needs to be established with a range of regulators who have obligations to ensure that there is compliance with community expectations as set out in legislation and standards.

Share this Page