Managing Resettlement For Future Mine Sustainability
Laws regulating the resettlement of communities for mining projects may be poorly defined, such that if they are used literally, then neither the mining company nor the community are protected. This could result in delays to approvals that may affect the viability of operations or development projects.
Resettling communities is a negotiated process whereby the community and mining company reach an agreement acceptable to the stakeholders. The resettlement will then allow access to the mineral resources to the benefit of the community, the country and the mining company.
While the resettlements are legal and may be required to develop mineral resources, the task of achieving a negotiated resettlement agreement can be difficult. The aim of the resettlement negotiation is to minimise the risks for both the community and the mining company, with the aim of developing a long-term partnership leading to improved community economic stability and a diversified local economy.
In large part the host communities grant a ‘social licence’ to companies wishing to develop and operate mines – which is beyond simply meeting all the legal requirements set by the host country.
Increasingly aware of how resettlement projects may affect this social licence, companies provide opportunities to build the capacity of their practitioners for practical and specific resettlement training. So I recently completed the Community Relations Practice course offered by Synergy Global and Wits University’s Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry.
This has given me greater confidence when working to develop partnerships with local communities in my role as a community relations professional. The documents we received while on the course also serve as a reference as we work to develop improved approaches to collaborating with our broad stakeholder base.
The course is part of a training programme aimed to create a new generation of highly skilled community relations practitioners who are sensitive to the challenges and solutions unique to the African context. Relevant content and creative training formats like role play and case studies ensure that what is learned can be directly applied in the workplace.
Mining companies need specialised technical skills to properly manage resettlement negotiations and then their implementation. It is also important that we continue to see resettlement and other social and community work as a core function within the overall mining operation. We continue to work at embedding socioeconomics and community wellbeing into our day to day business.
My role as a practitioner is to work within the customs and traditions of the community and the relevant legal framework aiming to identify needs and share information about the company’s operations and plans. As an ‘agent of change’, I discuss with communities how they see their priorities and help to shape programmes and projects that can assist them to achieve their goals.
“Companies need to continue to develop a culture of information sharing with local stakeholder communities, and discussing their economic development priorities, programmes, performance, and challenges,” he said. This approach creates a foundation of trust, which is vital for both parties, especially when regulations are vague about each party’s rights and responsibilities.
Building trust helps to draw the company closer to its stakeholder communities so that they can communicate openly and build a positive relationship – starting with understanding community aspiration, customs, belief systems, and traditions.
Mining companies who recognise the need for a social license are able to see more clearly how best to partner and pursue common goals with their stakeholder communities right down to the level of identifying and developing appropriate social programmes and projects. They were also better equipped to identify potential social and development risks from a business perspective.
- Golden Star (Bogoso/Prestea) Limited is a subsidiary company of Ghana-based Golden Star Resources