3.2 Explanation of elements of community engagement and development activities

The sections below provide greater detail on some of the key activities likely to be undertaken as part of a community engagement and development program. As part of the assessment phase described in Figure 2, community and stakeholder identification activities enable companies to know who they should be engaging with and the best means for engaging them. Baseline studies and social impact assessments straddle the boundary between the assessment and planning phases, as the assessments enable the development of community engagement and development plans. Opportunity assessment and community development planning are important factors in the planning phases of a project, enabling not only the mitigation of any potential negative project impacts but also the designing of positive programs in collaboration with local stakeholders. Monitoring and evaluation are an essential element of the professional management of community development programs and also feed into corporate reporting requirements. Inclusive engagement underpins all those activities.

3.2.1 Community and stakeholder identification and analysis

Community and stakeholder identification and analysis are the first steps in establishing positive relationships with stakeholders, including the local community. This includes developing a stakeholder database and management system and conducting a stakeholder mapping exercise.

Community and stakeholder identification should be done by a multidisciplinary team of staff from across company sections, with significant input from community members. The process should aim to identify all relevant stakeholder groups and the issues and impacts that relate to them. Physical, social, historical, cultural and political aspects of the community need to be considered, including levels of dependency on the company that certain groups may potentially or already have. Sensitivity to issues of gender and diversity will help ensure that women as well as men and also other vulnerable groups are appropriately represented in the analysis.

Community and stakeholder identification and analysis increasingly form part of social impact assessments for new projects, but can be done at any stage in the life of the mine. Regardless of when the exercise is first conducted, the stakeholder database and map need to be reviewed regularly as a way of keeping track of changes in the community and the mining operation and the emergence of new issues that need to be incorporated into programming and planning

3.2.2 Baseline studies and social impact assessments

Large development projects in Australia are generally only required to conduct a social impact assessment (SIA) as a small part of the environmental approvals process. Traditionally, this was the only time when the issue of social impacts was given formal consideration. However, leading companies in the industry are now voluntarily undertaking the equivalent of SIAs at their existing operations to develop a better understanding of local communities and to manage significant events, such as expansions and closures. A variety of terminology is used to describe these exercises (such as social monitoring, social assessments or socioeconomic baseline studies), but the common element is the focus on identifying and tracking the social impacts of a project, both positive and negative, and the key community issues associated with the project.

A comprehensive SIA should aim to:

  • identify the key social, environmental, demographic and economic factors that constrain or drive change in the particular community or region
  • understand how the establishment, expansion or closure of a mining operation will affect the community or region
  • define key baselines against which to measure past and future changes, and to determine whether or not they relate specifically to the impact of the mining operation
  • identify potential risks to and opportunities for the community or region arising from the presence of the business and indicate how they might be avoided or secured
  • identify existing programs, services, projects and processes (such as a community or regional plan) with which the operation could integrate potential initiatives.

Assessments should use both qualitative data (from interviews and focus groups) and available quantitative data (on demographic trends, labour markets and employment, income distribution, education levels and health).

In obtaining community input, it is important to be as broad and inclusive as possible to ensure that all relevant issues are identified. In particular, operations need to avoid engaging only with those groups and individuals who are supportive or have high influence. It is just as important to involve less obvious or marginalised groups who might not necessarily come forward voluntarily, plus the 'silent majority', whose perspective is sometimes overlooked in favour of more vocal community groups or individuals. As is emphasised throughout this handbook, women are important stakeholders within communities and workplaces and may bring perspectives and issues different from those of men

The engagement mechanisms that are used need to take account of communication needs in particular circumstances. Sessions may have to be held after hours, in different locations, and different styles of presentation and communication will often be necessary. It may also be important to consider literacy levels and work cross-culturally with communities in which English is not the primary language.

The ICMM Community Development Toolkit contains useful explanations of how baseline studies and SIAs may be done, including a range of source materials, and should be consulted by those wishing to understand more about the process (ICMM 2012; see Tools 11 and 12, pp. 127-144). Parts of the process are described below.

The first table contains descriptions of degrees of impact associated with a particular mine for the three criteria of extent, magnitude and duration. The descriptions would be devised by a panel of experts and affected people, who would reach agreement on the specific conditions for that particular project.


EXTENT OR SPATIAL INFLUENCE OF IMPACT Regional Further than 20 km from the project sites.
Local Within 20 km of the project sites.
Site-specific On site or within 100 metres of the site boundary.
MAGNITUDE OF IMPACT (AT THE INDICATED SPATIAL SCALE) High Social functions are severely altered—large number of directly affected people or households.
Medium Social functions are notably altered—medium number of directly affected people or households.
Low Social functions are slightly altered—small number of directly affected people or households.
DURATION OF IMPACT Long term Longer than the project life (more than 6 months after operations cease).
Medium term For the duration of the project.
Short term For the duration of construction (or less than 6 months).

This table also appears in ICMM (2012:138)

As an example, increased truck movements through a local community for the duration of construction would be categorised using the table above to be local, high magnitude and short term. The category results are multiplied to determine the significance of the impact, as demonstrated in the table below, with the result that the impact would be considered to be of medium significance.


HIGH Regional High Long term
Regional High Medium term
Regional Medium Long term
Local High Long term
MEDIUM Regional High Short term
Regional Medium Medium term
Regional Medium Short term
Regional Low Long term
Regional Low Medium term
Local High Medium term
Local High Short term
Local Medium Long term
Local Medium Medium term
Local Low Long term
Site Specific High Long term
Site Specific High Medium term
Site Specific Medium Long term
LOW Regional Low Short term
Local Medium Short term
Local Low Medium term
Local Low Short term
Site Specific High Short term
Site Specific Medium Short term
Site Specific Medium Medium term
Site Specific Low Long term
Site Specific Low Medium term
Site Specific Low Short term

Source: C Macdonald, Social Sustainability Services Pty Ltd

The significance of an impact is used to determine its priority for mitigation. Note that impacts may be positive as well as negative, and so may require enhancement for community benefit rather than mitigation. Impact management plans might mitigate the effects of an impact so that it becomes neutral or positive in its influence. Thus, impacts should be re-evaluated after the projected effects of mitigation plans are taken into account to determine the nature of the residual impact.

Impacts might also be cumulative, if there are multiple projects in an area, which would require a specific cumulative impact assessment evaluation, taking regional activities and other projects into account. Footnote 6

3.2.3 Opportunity assessment

Once social and community impacts have been identified through an SIA or similar process, an opportunity assessment should be done to rank issues associated with the activities of the project, based on actual and perceived impacts. Ranking is important in order to determine what needs to be addressed as a priority: that is, which community projects are needed most urgently and also which are easiest to organise and implement, enabling some 'quick wins'. Mining operations should focus not only on potential liabilities but also on identifying opportunities to contribute constructively to the long-term development of communities and regions. Further community engagement may be needed at this stage to better understand and prioritise issues and identify possible responses.

Opportunity ranking needs to be repeated regularly because changes occur as a project moves through its life cycle, including in perceptions of the project and its performance, relationships with community members, and people's priorities, within both the company and the community. Footnote 7

3.2.4 Developing a community engagement and development plan

A key output of the assessment process should be the development of a community engagement and development or similar plan, which is informed by the stakeholder identification and analysis, the SIA and the risk and opportunity assessment, as well as by other interactions.

Plans should ensure that the community is aware of the operation's activities, that the site has systems and processes in place to ensure that it continues to understand and respond to community issues and concerns, and that relationships are built continuously, not only when problems occur. A complaints management process should also be part of the engagement plan

The operation needs to ensure alignment between its engagement and development plan and other key strategy documents, such as the plan of operations, as well as other wider community, regional and national development plans. Wherever possible, an outcome of engagement activities should be actions that can realistically be taken by the mine in support of community development priorities defined by local stakeholders, looking for overlapping and mutually advantageous projects. The plan should also include indicators and performance measures, so that the effectiveness and outcomes of company initiatives can be monitored and evaluated and improvements can be made where required

3.2.5 Monitoring and evaluating

The mining operation should regularly check that the systems and processes that have been established are being consistently applied. Monitoring results enables the operation to change actions, behaviours or the system itself to ensure better alignment with the operating context and community engagement outcomes.

Monitoring should be ongoing and can be conducted by a third party or by the mine. Whichever approach is taken, standards need to be clearly defined and consistently applied.

While checks against systems and processes are important, periodic evaluations should also assess the way an activity or program of activities is implemented and the impact that it is having. Evaluation results help to inform and improve planning and decision-making about the activity or program, or future similar activities, and to report on practice. The evaluation of community engagement and community development initiatives can take place at either the project level, for one-off initiatives, or the program level when there are a number of related activities or events. The scope of the evaluation should reflect the scale and significance of the activity or program to be evaluated.

One of the essential aspects of designing a successful monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system for a mine's community engagement and development activities is the selection of appropriate indicators in the design phase to use in the measurement process. To do this well, take these key steps:

  • Define and agree on what success means for both the company and the community.
  • Define and agree on appropriate indicators of success in collaboration with the community.
  • Regularly review the selected list of indicators to ensure that they continue to be relevant for both the company and the community.
  • Ensure that baseline data for the selected indicators is available from the outset.

Other important considerations are to use both qualitative and quantitative indicators, meaning those that measure perceptions and opinions as well as hard numbers, such as school results or health data. Another is to include positive and negative indicators that will measure both increases in beneficial changes and decreases in undesirable outcomes. Monitoring and evaluation of corporate social performance is now recognised as an important function of effective mine management, and there are now several detailed sources to be used as references in developing the M&E system for individual mines and their host communities. Footnote 8

The following case study illustrates the value of investing early in community relations and development programs, even at the exploration phase.

Collapsed - Case study: The benefits of early engagement-exploration in Indonesia

Robust Resources is exploring for base metals on Romang, a small tropical island in the south of Maluku Province, Indonesia. Robust is a Sydney-based, ASX-listed exploration company. At present, it is a single-project company. It employs around eight Australians, and 30 Indonesians from other parts of the country. Romang Island is heavily forested and has small pockets of coastal communities totalling around 4,000 people. There has been no significant development on the island. The villages are well kept; there are outpost clinics, schools and local shops, but no vehicles, no paved roads, no electricity, no communication infrastructure, some communal tapped reticulated water and intermittent sea transport. In short, the island is isolated and relatively poor.

Robust started exploration in 2007 in the south of the island, some two kilometres from the nearest village. By 2011, the company had a base camp, a fly camp and six drills operating. A total of about 80 islanders are employed by the project in various tasks as unskilled workers.

The Robust Resources board is made up of people who understand the need to pay close attention to social issues. From an early stage, they have pressed the need to 'do the right thing'. Attention to social responsibility gained momentum when a 'champion' joined the board and was energetic in obtaining external help to set up a community relations program.

Robust started dedicated community relations work in early 2010 and has continued to expand its program in line with its exploration expansion to date. Before 2010, geologists dealt with any community issues that arose. Issues tended to concern land access, compensation for land use and damage to crops, plus the hiring of local people.

As the company has grown, more resources have been dedicated to social and environmental work. There is now a community relations team of five: all are Indonesian, two are from Romang Island and one is a woman. There is also a community development program supported by three external partnerships with local development groups from other parts of Indonesia. Robust's social responsibility partners are committed to good process in community development, which means community participation, ownership of decisions, planning, co-implementation, monitoring and assessing results. Partnerships are often mixed, with one providing the rigours of good process and others delivering technical training and support, such as for cropping, home gardens and community health.

Not only has the company provided adequate budget support, but importantly it has been able to recruit the right professional people with the right types of people skills. All its community relations and development workers have university degrees in relevant disciplines. Robust selects its communities staff not just on the basis of professional qualifications but also on their personality types, people skills and cultural sensitivity.

Although Robust is a relatively small operation, it has committed sufficient funds to establish a community relations program and work on community development. The community relations team have focused on building relationships between the company and the community. Information sessions on exploration have been conducted and company staff have attended ceremonies and worked to develop their understanding of local customs and traditions. After discussions with village leaders, the team committed to stay in the villages for periods to strengthen relationships.

An Australian university was contracted to research Romang customs and traditions. Through its work, relations have been strengthened with the island's elders. The company now commits to fully consult with elders, seeks their consent to any new work, and conducts proper ceremony when requested. For new work, an initial traditional ceremony is conducted plus a signing ceremony. Part of the signing is a set of agreements around a master document called a partnership agreement. These agreements form the core of Robust's program to maintain its social licence to operate on Romang, and in 2014 included a focus on agriculture, health, microfinance and infrastructure in the community development field. The company considers that its investments in socially responsible practices have contributed to the successful establishment of its exploration program and that this will form a solid foundation for future developments.

Source: A version of this case study originally appeared in Social responsibility in the mining and metals sectors in developing countries, (DRET 2011).


Footnote 6
See Franks et al (2013) for recent discussion of cumulative impacts, and Section 3.3.5 in this handbook.

Return to footnote 6 referrer

Footnote 7
See ICMM, 2012, Community Development Toolkit, London, available at http://www.icmm.com/community-development-toolkit, Tools 9 Development Opportunity Ranking, pp. 101-108 for further explanation of this tool.

Return to footnote 7 referrer

Footnote 8
Adapted from Zandvliet and Anderson: 207-215. See also Anglo American Socio-Economic Assessment Toolbox (SEAT) v.3, 2012. Tool 6A, pp. 257-264, available at http://www.angloamerican.com/development/social/seat, and ICMM, Community development toolkit, London available at http://www.icmm.com/community-development-toolkit, Tools 19 and 20, pp. 191-200.

Return to footnote 8 referrer

Share this Page