2.5 Operations

The operational phase of a mining project is sometimes regarded as 'steady-state' and may last for many years, depending on the size and nature of the project. The stability of this income-producing period of a mine thus offers the greatest opportunity for sustainable community development programs. There is time to develop and implement locally identified long-term programs designed in collaboration with community members and other stakeholders. Partnerships may be established and nurtured for program design, implementation and monitoring, with a focus on community participation

Operations community engagement and development: example activities

A full team of community relations staff will be needed, plus support from external experts if necessary. Competent staff with appropriate social science or community development training and experience will be needed. The size of the team will depend on the size of the operation, its geographical spread and its complexity. Adequate budget support will be needed to fund impact mitigation and community investment programs. Involving a wide range of personnel from various parts of the operation, and at varying levels of seniority, will help to establish a broad base for community engagement.

Strong, stable and collaborative relationships and partnerships need to be nurtured. Establish and maintain regular engagements with a full range of stakeholders, tailored to their level of interest in the project, so that people are fully informed about operational activities. Agreements on community investment programs may be concluded with affected communities. Regular updates of stakeholder identification and analysis exercises and consistent record keeping will aid successful community engagement. The complaints procedure must be fully functional and include arrangements to use a respected third-party mediator

Design a full program of community investments in a participatory manner with community members and other partners, bearing in mind the need for sustainability of initiatives. Ensure that all sectors of the community are able to participate, including women, youth and elderly or disabled people. Continue to collect data to monitor and measure impacts against indicators selected from the baseline studies. The indicators must cover economic, social, health, educational, small business and population changes. Conduct additional studies if new data is needed due to changed circumstances, such as an expansion of operations. Keep up to date with community changes and developments.

Adjust programs as needed to ensure that negative impacts of operations are mitigated and positive impacts result in improvements to community life through project investment and support. Maintain a strong communications program to ensure that excessive expectations are tempered and realistic expectations are met and seen to be met. Resolve complaints before they become disputes. A full set of socially responsible behaviour guidelines should be in force for operational staff and contractors, covering worker conduct, cultural respect, heritage, corruption, human rights and community safety

Regularly and comprehensively monitor and periodically evaluate a full range of socioeconomic indicators, disaggregated by gender where possible. Regularly report on progress and challenges to company management, project personnel, shareholders and a full range of local and other stakeholders. Report on complaints resolution data.

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