3.4 Community health and safety impact assessment

The assessment and management of community health and safety are part of the risk management and social responsibility of owners and operators in the minerals industry. Community health and safety are usually considered as an integrated part of the broader environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) process or may be completed as a stand-alone health and safety impact assessment (HSIA) if the impacts warrant it. Whichever method is used, it is important to ensure that the assessment systematically addresses the potential negative and positive effects of policies, plans, programs and projects on community health and safety by identifying, preventing and/or mitigating the impacts and risks.

The issues to be considered from a community health and safety perspective are broad, as mining affects a range of determinants, including direct effects on health and safety and indirect effects on health (such as social, cultural, environmental and economic factors), as summarised in Table 3.5. Additional consideration may be needed for high-risk groups in the community.

Table 3.5 Effects on the community from mining

  • Physical injury
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Infectious disease
  • Chronic disease
  • Emergency situations
  • Housing
  • Water supply and sanitation
  • Transport
  • Learning and education
  • Crime and security
  • Social care and public services
  • Commercial goods and services
  • Social capital and community cohesion
  • Leisure and recreation
  • Energy
  • Waste
  • Land and space

The cumulative impact of mining operations in a region needs to be included in the impact assessment. Impacts may be synergistic or additive, and short-, medium- and long-term effects need consideration.

A proactive approach to preventing negative impacts and maximising positive benefits can improve the financial performance of a project or company, in addition to bringing environmental and social benefits. Key benefits include:

  • speedier achievement of a project’s licence to operate
  • lower planning and associated legal and consultancy costs
  • lower risk of disruptive protest or sabotage
  • lower risk of damage to a project and company’s reputation
  • lower risk of future community-led liability and litigation
  • reduced absenteeism and healthcare costs for employees from local communities
  • improved employee morale. (International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM 2010).

3.4.1 The health and safety impact assessment process

An HSIA systematically analyses potential health and safety impacts and aids the development of options to maximise the positive impacts and minimise the negative impacts. A WHS risk assessment can be combined with the community HSIA to inform strategic health and safety planning.

The model shown in Figure 3.2 is modified from ICMM (2009, 2010). It outlines the steps required for an effective and thorough HSIA. Although the model is presented as a linear process, in practice it is iterative and steps may need to be revisited if new or additional information becomes available. Each step needs to be managed to ensure that appropriate and relevant information is sourced and used.

The following ICMM documents provide detailed information on how to complete a health impact assessment:

  • Good practice guidance on health impact assessment (2010)
  • Good practice guidance on occupational health risk assessment (2009).

Figure 3.2: Model health impact assessment process

Figure 3.2: Model health impact assessment process

Simandou is a Rio Tinto iron ore mine in Guinea. Figure 3.3, a summary of the health impacts from the mine component of the Simandou Social and Environmental Impact Assessment, demonstrates the range and complexity of the information gathered during the assessment and the perceptions and outcomes that could be included.

Figure 3.3: Health impacts of the Simandou iron ore mine, Guinea

Figure 3.3: Health impacts of the Simandou iron ore mine, Guinea

Source: Rio Tinto (2012). Simandou Social and Environmental Impact Assessments (SEIA) http://www.riotinto.com/documents/M_An21A_CHSSBase_EN.pdf.

Share this Page