5.0 Conclusion

The focus on sustainable development has brought about a significant policy and practice transformation in the mining industry. Two vital social aspects of sustainable development are community engagement and community development, which combine to form the broad field of community relations—the relationships between mines and host communities. This handbook has outlined key concepts, drivers, practice examples and challenges in a form useful for mine managers and community relations practitioners.

Adopting a more systematic approach to community engagement will help align and ultimately integrate the management of community issues with management practices in other operational areas. To support this approach, the handbook has identified a range of principles and toolkits relating to community engagement and development that practitioners can refer to for guidance. Since the first edition of the handbook, there has been a blossoming of research and publications advising on a wide range of community relations issues. The handbook contains references in the text to key articles and a substantial ‘Further reading’ section to enable additional study by those interested in learning more.

Community development, with its focus on strengthening communities and their wellbeing, necessitates community engagement, but entails much more. In Australia, mining companies are increasingly embracing the opportunity to play a role in the area of social change and positive development, and are seeking approaches that speak to their strengths. There may have been a tendency towards expecting mining companies to act outside their zone of expertise and to behave like development agencies, accompanied by an outsourcing of community development activities. The pendulum may now be swinging back towards an equilibrium that enables companies to support communities in managing their own development through effective community engagement practices and partnerships based on mutual benefits. While community development work can be complex, there is an emerging body of knowledge and some logical steps that can be followed, as outlined in this handbook.

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