1.2 Clarifying terminology

The concept of ‘community’ is commonly used in the mining industry to indicate the geographical community in an operation’s area of interest. However, there may be other equally legitimate ways to conceive of community; for example, as a network of people who are geographically dispersed but are inked by a shared set of interests or experiences. In the context of the mining industry, an example of where the community of a mine may be broader than just people living in the surrounding area is fly-in, fly-out or drive-in, drive-out operations in which employees and their families live in a distant town or city. Another example is where some of the traditional owners of the land on which a mine is located have maintained their link to the land but reside in regional centres some distance away.

Regardless of how a community is defined, it is very important not to treat it as a homogeneous entity. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Communities are political in the sense that power dynamics come into play just as much as they do in other group situations. Members of a community are likely to hold diverse opinions about the mine, its activities and the mining industry in general. Different sections of a community will also have different associations with the mine depending, for example, on whether they are near neighbours, employees, local business people or traditional owners.

The local historical, cultural, political and legislative context will help a mine to determine who comprises the local community, and the best way of interacting and engaging with the people in that community.

Early in the engagement process it is very important that companies seek views on how the local community is constituted from a broad cross-section of people, and that engagement processes are tailored accordingly. Experience demonstrates that dissatisfaction tends to come from sections of society that feel neglected or ignored in consultations, so the broader the engagement, the more likely it will be to succeed.

Because women play critical roles in communities as workers, family members and individuals, and are often very active in community groups, special efforts may be needed to ensure that their perspectives are sought and that they are included in community engagement and development programs.

1.2.1 Communities and stakeholders

There is sometimes confusion about the various terms used in discussing community relations, such as ‘community consultation’ and ‘stakeholder engagement’. For example, in 2007, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) issued its updated guidance on community relations and titled it Stakeholder engagement: a good practice handbook for companies doing business in emerging markets, whereas the 1998 edition had been titled Doing better business through effective consultation and disclosure. The later guidance advocates the preparation of a stakeholder engagement plan and the earlier one a public consultation and disclosure plan, both of which are basically the same—plans for engaging communities and other stakeholders affected by projects. The ICMM, the leading international mining body, defines stakeholders as:

Persons or groups who are affected by or can affect the outcome of a project. They may be individuals, interest groups, government agencies or corporate organizations. They may include politicians, commercial and industrial enterprises, labour unions, academics, religious groups, national social and environmental groups, public sector agencies and the media. (ICMM 2012:208)

Applying this definition, local communities may be considered stakeholders. However, the two terms are not entirely interchangeable. Some important stakeholders come from outside a local community, such as national and international non-government organisations, financial institutions, regional and national governments, and media outlets. Conversely, not all people in a community would identify themselves as stakeholders—some people consider this to be a generic term that does not apply to people living locally In essence, there should be no need to agonise over which words are ‘correct’. Fundamentally, they are all about the relationship between the mining project or company and its stakeholders, whether the local community or a wider range of stakeholders. This distinction is specified wherever necessary in the handbook.

1.2.2 Community relations, engagement and development

‘Community relations’ is a term that encompasses both community engagement and community development. The more concise terms ‘community engagement’ and ‘community development’ describe overlapping but sometimes distinct processes. Effective community engagement is an integral part of community development, but engagement can also be undertaken for other purposes: for example, to address community concerns about environmental impacts. Community development likewise involves more than just interacting with the community: for example, designing programs and linking with government and other organisations. In practical terms, however, the processes of community engagement and community development are closely intertwined and together produce the relationship between a mine and its local stakeholders, the community. In this handbook, both terms are used (‘engagement’ for activities that are mainly focused on dialogue and ‘development’ for activities with a stronger planning and implementation focus), and sometimes ‘engagement’ and ‘development’ are used interchangeably or collectively referred to as ‘community relations’ activities. It is usually not important to distinguish between these expressions, as all contribute to the understanding of company-community relationships. Where distinction is needed, the most appropriate term is used.

1.2.3 The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Spectrum

The IAP2 is a leading international organisation that focuses on community involvement in development project activities. It has developed the Public Participation Spectrum, which represents community engagement as a continuum of activities, as shown in Figure 1. Note that yet another term for community engagement is used here—’public participation’. Note also that the more participatory forms of community engagement described in this spectrum, particularly those labelled ‘collaboration’ and ‘empowerment’, depict activities more accurately described as community development rather than merely engagement.

Figure 1: The IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum

Inform​ ​Consult ​Involve ​Collaborate ​Empower
​Public participation goal ​To provide the public with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the problems, alternatives and/or solutions. ​To obtain public feedback on analysis, alternatives and/or decision. ​To work directly with the public throughout the process to ensure that public issues and concerns are consistently understood and considered. ​To partner with the public in each aspect of hte decision including the development of alternatives and the identification of the preferred solution. ​To place final decision-making in the hands of the public.
​Promise to the public We will keep you informed.​ ​We will keep you informed, listen to and acknowledge concerns and provide feedback on how public input influenced the decision. ​We will work with you to ensure that your concerns and issues are directly reflected in the alternatives developed and provide feedback on how pulbic input influenced the decision. ​We will look to you for advice and innovation in formulating solutions and incorporate your advise and recommendations into the decisions to the maximum extent possible. ​We will implement what you decide.
​Example tools

Fact sheets


Open houses

​Public comment

Focus groups


Public meetings


Deliberate polling

​Citizen Advisory committees


Participatory decision-making

​Citizen juries


Delegated decisions

Source: https://www.iap2.org.au/resources/iap2s-public-participation-spectrum

At one end of the spectrum, community engagement may involve no more than a basic level of interaction with the local community, such as providing information about the operation. This may be facilitated through information booths, media releases, newsletters, brochures, mail-out programs, websites and hotlines. These techniques are often perceived as ways to present basic information to the widest range of stakeholders. As the engagement process moves towards a more directed method of stakeholder interaction, consultation may be employed to ascertain specific areas of risk and opportunity.

This interaction can involve public meetings, discussion groups, polls, surveys and focus groups.

Once key stakeholders have been identified, the process becomes more than information gathering and dissemination and moves towards a two-way interactive mode.

The involvement and collaborative steps represent more active and, at times, stakeholder-driven interaction. Activities in these areas can include workshops and discussion groups, learning circles, interviews, reference groups and community consultative committees. These activities may have to be held at various times in order to ensure that women and other potentially marginalised groups can attend

At the other end of the spectrum, empowerment represents a level of engagement that can extend to participation in planning and decision-making, not only on issues related to operational impacts, but also on decisions about the community’s future once the mine has closed. The more advanced an operation or project is in its engagement processes, the more use it will make of techniques to the right of the spectrum.

The IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum is sometimes presented in a simplified graphic (minus most of the words) that shows a linear progression that implies that the ‘best’ engagement must always be at the empowerment end of the scale. In fact, community relationships for a mining company can span decades, depending on the life of the mine, and might not always develop in a straight line. Sometimes more basic forms of engagement, such as information provision, will be entirely appropriate. These processes should be used and viewed as part of an overall engagement process designed to enable appropriate and fully representative involvement by all stakeholders. Empowerment is important, but it should not be the objective of every stakeholder interaction. A variety of approaches will be required at different times and on different issues, all as part of developing and maintaining a strong relationship between the project and the community.

Case study: Cadia Valley Operations Gold Mine, NSW— Listening to the community

Cadia Valley Operations (CVO) is one of Australia’s largest goldmining operations and is 100% owned by Newcrest. It is located approximately 25 kilometres from Orange in central western New South Wales, 250 kilometres west of Sydney. CVO has been operating since the 1990s and comprises three mines: the Cadia Hill open-pit mine and the Cadia East and Ridgeway underground mines. These are large-scale mining operations using either block and panel caving or open-pit mining methods.

A community sentiment survey commissioned by CVO in 2010 identified broad-based dissatisfaction in the Cadia district (the local area immediately surrounding CVO) with the level of community investment projects that CVO was providing to nearby townships compared to the level of support delivered to directly affected near neighbours.

The Cadia district is an agricultural community with almost no shared community infrastructure apart from roads and a small one-teacher public school, and CVO had traditionally found it difficult to find meaningful ways to directly support the local farmers.

To address the findings of the community sentiment survey, CVO launched the Cadia District Enhancement Project in February 2012 with the objective of identifying, developing and implementing projects in cooperation with local landowners to enhance the Cadia district as a farming, mining and lifestyle choice.

The first stage of the project was a series of ‘think tank’ workshops involving interested landowners and representatives of CVO. The parameters were that there were to be no budget constraints or assumptions, nothing was to be off limits and the objective was to create a community or environmental benefit. The workshops generated more than 200 individual ideas, which were shortlisted to an initial six priority projects with the assistance of an independent facilitator.

The six initial projects are:

  1. Coordinated weed and pest management—The objective is to attain a weed- and pest-free agricultural district. The project involves a marketing and education campaign, Chemcert training for all landowners, discounts on chemicals and baits, community signage and coordinated weed and pest control programs across the entire district.
  2. CVO loyalty schemes for the Cadia district—The objective is to institute district support programs available exclusively to CVO’s near neighbours. The programs include priority employment, scholarship and training support, priority grazing rights on CVO land, ‘shop locally’ initiatives and more social gatherings within the district.
  3. Improve district roads and infrastructure—The objective is to implement new infrastructure and improve roads in the local area for the benefit of the Cadia district. The project began with a district-wide roads survey to gauge the level of satisfaction with local roads and infrastructure. The survey outcomes will be used to lobby local and state governments for additional funding.
  4. Waste collection service—The objective is to add value to CVO’s neighbouring properties by providing a weekly roadside waste collection service.
  5. Research/implement renewable energy initiatives—The objective is to implement programs that reduce the cost of energy for the Cadia district, including providing bulk buying solar power opportunities to local landowners.
  6. Establish a Cadia viewing centre—The objective is to develop an information and viewing area over Cadia Valley historic and modern mining operations that will provide a permanent, positive legacy for the Cadia district. The program will be conducted in stages, depending on usage and the interest of the community.

Each project has a reference group consisting of volunteers from the Cadia district community to guide development of the project and a senior member of CVO to implement the project. To guide the overall strategy of the Cadia District Enhancement Project, a governing body has been formed with a formal charter and constitution. The governing body consists primarily of landowner volunteers, while CVO provides the secretariat.

CVO’s Melissa Schumacher and Jeff Burton in consultation with local resident David Pepper-Edwards
CVO’s Melissa Schumacher and Jeff Burton in consultation with local resident David Pepper-Edwards

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