5.6 Social audits

Social or community relations audits are required by governments and lending institutions for major resource and infrastructure projects (for example, mining, forestry, dams, power transmission lines, roads and railways or ports), especially in developing countries and to a lesser extent in developed countries.

Social audits are often combined with environmental audits, as factors that affect the environment often also affect surrounding communities. In some cases, whole villages and even tribal groups must be moved because of the extent of flooding of valleys by a major dam, or by the land requirements for a major open-cut mine and its facilities. In other cases, the lifestyles of indigenous communities are disrupted, traditional agricultural practices are restricted, heritage sites are destroyed and internal migration within the country introduces new people and cultures to an area. The transport of hazardous substances such as cyanide and ammonium nitrate to a mine, or radioactive products from a mine, may pose significant risks to both communities and sensitive environments along the transport routes.

Specific social audit protocols must be developed based on criteria sourced from a variety of documents, especially the Equator Principles (EPFI 2006), Enduring value (MCA 2004), and the World Bank International Finance Corporation’s guidelines and performance standards (IFC 2006, 2007a, 2007b), that may apply to a particular mining project.

The IFC performance standards (PSs) of April 2006 (modified in 2012) cover social and environmental sustainability. They include:

  • PS1: Assessment and management of environmental and social risks and impacts
  • PS2: Labour and working conditions
  • PS3: Resource efficiency and pollution prevention
  • PS4: Community health, safety and security
  • PS5: Land acquisition and involuntary resettlement
  • PS6: Biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of living natural resources
  • PS7: Indigenous peoples
  • PS8: Cultural heritage.
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