2.3 Land access

Access to land for a mining project may involve the physical or economic displacement of community members, which disrupts community life. If project activities interrupt the livelihood activities of neighbouring people, even temporarily (such as during construction), that is a form of economic displacement. If people need to give up their houses or land because of the project, that is physical displacement, or resettlement. In the Australian context, this may take the form of compulsory acquisition of homes or land by the project, which can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness on the part of the displaced home owners and to delays for the project proponents. Economic displacement may be caused by impacts on agricultural land or to road access.

Australian governments supports the coexistence of land-based industries in rural and regional Australia through sound evidence-based approaches, drawing on the guiding principles of the Multiple Land Use Framework as endorsed by the Standing Council on Energy and Resources in December 2013 in response to conflicts arising from land access and land uses. The framework recognises that the development of many Australian industry sectors relies on access to land and should meet multiple stakeholder needs covering economic, environmental, heritage, societal and cultural values.

Land access for a project begins with the acquisition of exploration leases. After feasibility studies have proven the economic viability of the project and more permanent leases have been acquired, additional land is needed for project development and the construction of housing, roads, airports, pipelines, storage facilities and other facilities. Considerable negotiation may be needed at each stage of development for a company to gain access to land, and this will involve consultation and engagement with local communities, landowners, pastoralists, farmers, traditional owners and governments in order to reach workable agreements. Even if it is possible to obtain leases from governments without positively engaging local stakeholders, it is not wise from a community relations perspective, as it is bound to lead to resentment and disagreement in the longer term

Native title and cultural heritage legislation in Australia requires that specific forms of compensation must be paid to people with traditional rights to land. Footnote 3 Successful project proponents know that agreeing to various forms and levels of compensation with local communities and affected individuals, ideally with the involvement of local governments and community support bodies, is the best way to create harmonious community relations. Compensation may be in cash or in kind, the appropriate forms to be decided during consultations and negotiations. It may be necessary to provide certain forms of compensation to communities as a whole, as well as to individuals and households. Whatever the specific elements of a land access agreement or compensation process, companies should use qualified experts to guide negotiations in what can be a complex field of community engagement.

Land access community engagement and development: example activities

More community relations staff may be needed to engage community members in land access discussions and negotiations. All contractors, whether for construction or other work, must be contractually bound to follow the lead company's social responsibility procedures and guidelines.

An intensive communications and consultation program will need to be undertaken to enable communities and stakeholders to understand the implications of land access agreements and impacts upon cultural heritage. Include all sectors of the community in consultations, including women, youth, the elderly and the disabled. Special compensation programs may need to be implemented. An accessible complaints procedure will need to be established and functioning

Engage qualified practitioners to conduct cultural heritage and land use assessments, as needed Conduct a comprehensive stakeholder identification and analysis exercise. Revise the impact assessments made at the feasibility stage. Ensure that all studies and assessments take specific account of women, children, the elderly and the disabled and the different impacts that they may experience.

Design detailed management plans and social responsibility guidelines and procedures for land access, socioeconomic and cultural heritage impacts identified by the impact assessments. Take into account differing impacts on women, children, old people, disabled people and minority groups.

Select land-use and cultural heritage protection indicators for inclusion in a monitoring and evaluation process. Disaggregate data by gender where possible.


Footnote 3
For more information, see Working with indigenous communities in this series of handbooks.

Return to footnote 3 referrer

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