5.11 Audit protocol

The environmental or social audit protocol presents a process for the auditor to follow to accomplish the objectives of the audit. The process may be a standard procedure or a guideline specific to the organisation or facility being audited.

Using a comprehensive audit protocol ensures consistency in the audit process and reporting procedures. This is particularly important where audit teams are used and where members of those teams may be selected on a rotating basis. An audit protocol can also be used to help train inexperienced auditors and to reduce the amount of supervision required by the leader of the environmental audit team.

Audit protocols can be general or they can be specific to a particular audit type or to the mine site being audited. The criteria agreed for the audit should be reflected in the audit protocol. This enables the auditor to assess the level of conformance by the mine site with the criteria by using the audit protocol. Generally, mandatory audit protocols are derived from the conditions of the documents that are mandated to be reviewed in the relevant clause of the document requiring the audit, and may include planning approvals, mining leases, water licences, other permits and environmental management plans required by the consent documents. The protocol can include several hundred conditions to be audited.

Audit protocols may incorporate a rating system or other numerical process for evaluating the results of the audit. This can be valuable in comparing the environmental or social performance of one mine with the performance of others, and for tracking improvement (or decline) over time. The maturity model is a risk-based approach to evaluate the level of organisation within a company to address a particular issue. Originating in mine safety, this approach is increasingly being applied to other disciplines (DIIS 2016a).

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