Mining Industry Overview

4. Citizens

Population – seeking tangible benefits

The broad population of a country with mineral resources tends to have similar objectives to the government. Citizens wish to see tangible benefits from mining in the form of revenue, infrastructure development and employment creation. In modern society, citizens, both as individuals and as organisations, expect to be consulted on projects affecting them and to have their views heard and genuinely considered, in a suitable forum.

Unfortunately, there is a large body of suspicion of and even hostility to mining in general, even among educated populations and in developed countries. Often this relates to “the Resource Curse” which is discussed in the notes on Mineral Compliance and the Role of the Mining Inspectorate. Lack of appropriate governance can result in inequitable distribution of wealth created by exploitation of mineral resources which are the property of the nation.

Surrounding communities – displacement concerns

Communities living within and closely surrounding an area in which mining is to take place, have the same concerns and aspirations as the population at large, in addition to more direct issues.

Perhaps the most direct concern of surrounding communities is displacement. Land on which exploration and mining is planned to take place is often already occupied or used, for residential, agricultural or other purposes. Whilst some activities such as reconnaissance or exploration may be temporary or of limited scope, allowing continued use by other parties, the construction of a mine often requires long-term displacement of individuals or communities. This can be an extremely emotive issue. Because mining is normally legally restricted to extra-urban areas, displaced parties are often rural dwellers.

Whilst in the past mine developers have often been cavalier in their approach to relocation of displaced parties, this is globally no longer acceptable and many countries have legislation covering compensation and resettlement. The World Bank has published guidelines on involuntary resettlement, and its private sector investment wing, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has published a Handbook for Preparing a Resettlement Action Plan.

These instruments seek to protect displaced communities from unfair practices, to ensure that resettlement is conducted humanely with fair compensation and to ensure that, as a minimum, resettled communities will be provided with the means to sustain themselves at least to the standard enjoyed prior to relocation.

Enlightened mine developers accept this responsibility, recognise the need to secure the co-operation of local communities and their leaders and are well-advised to go beyond the letter of the law to provide benefits. At a cost which is often an insignificant part of the cost of building a major mine, a company can build infrastructure and provide facilities to improve the lives of locals, thereby purchasing valuable goodwill and co-operation which can benefit the project in many ways, including financially a “win-win” situation. Facilities might include roads, schools, clinics, sporting and recreational facilities, provision of power and water and many others. Other benefits might include providing education, vocational training to equip locals to work at the mine – another mutual benefit – and other community services.

Mine developers are advised to engage closely with local communities from the earliest possible opportunity, seeking to understand traditional and other leadership structures, local culture and the needs of the community. Communication of plans, and efforts made to explain the impacts of the proposed project, both positive and negative, can make the difference between success and failure.