Mineral Exploration

Winter 2016

Mineral Exploration is the official publication of the Association of Mineral Exploration British Columbia.

Issue link: http://digital.canadawide.com/i/756078

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Page 64 of 71

W inte r 20 1 6 65 PHOTO CHAPLEAU ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION INTEGRATED SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY Unique Needs, Unique Solutions Stakeholder grievance mechanisms solicit feedback from communities of interest By SPENCER DURANT T he mineral exploration and mining sector faces a host of societal challenges that affect the company's bottom line. Capturing the voices and concerns of project-affected communities can help to ensure a local community's acceptance or approval of a company's project or ongoing presence in an area, and may prevent possible stoppages of operations. If companies develop project- level grievance mechanisms to meet the unique needs and concerns that arise from their community of interest, they will be better positioned to respond to potential material risks affecting company operations. Grievance mechanisms In the context of the extractives industry, a grievance is an issue raised that has ascended to a degree of concern due to the interaction between a mining company and its community of interest. A grievance that is formally registered with the company may stem from a source of significant concern – for example, access to land, land acquisition, resettlement or noise pollution. The formal method of accepting, investigating and responding to community issues and concerns is called a project-level grievance mechanism (GM). Typically, the concerns of a community of interest relate to various impacts to property and quality of life, livelihoods, human rights, the environment, land access and water quality. A grievance can result from either real or perceived impacts from a company's operations, and can range from minor issues to more serious or deeply embedded ones. Grievances that are not documented and responded to in a measurable way can result in considerable resentment and opposition toward a mining company. By what means, if at all, a company chooses to respond to the complaint raised by a community of interest will demonstrate to the community the degree to which the company takes an issue seriously. A well- considered company response will send a message to a community that may have a lasting impression on their relationship. Depending on how a project impacts its local communities, grievances will vary by project stage and size. To a somewhat lesser extent, they will also depend on the type of commodity and, therefore, the nature of the operation. In many cases, grievances will be minimal at the preconstruction stage, peak during construction, be comparatively moderate during operation, and rise again during downsizing or mine closure. Typically, during the construction stage the scale of impact is elevated and the expectations of economic benefits are on the rise. Similarly, mine closure and downsizing will raise concerns about the community's future options for economic prosperity. Yet some types of grievances are more common and should be anticipated at all times, such as access to natural resources, access to project benefits (such as jobs) or flaws in the consultation process. Other grievances occur with specific project circumstances and therefore require a customized response, especially in the case of larger, more complex operations. These grievances can arise from the influx and in-migration of workers, the development of access roads and an increase in heavy traffic pollution, or human rights concerns over security forces. Project-level GMs are not appropriate tools when there may have been an infringement of law. GMs are designed to address the concerns of the community of interest and are distinct from other mechanisms, such as employee/labour GMs and ethics whistleblower processes. The importance of project-level GMs In addition to proactively engaging stakeholders, it is also important to provide communities with opportunities to voice their concerns and grievances. Providing this space for communities will not only allow for exploration companies to monitor and evaluate whether their engagement activities are making a difference, but also prevent complaints from escalating into issues that pose serious risks to their operations. Properly designed and implemented grievance management processes can benefit both the company and the community by resolving minor disputes quickly, inexpensively and fairly – with solutions that reasonably satisfy both sides. Project-level GMs can also help identify and resolve issues before they are elevated to levels of formal dispute resolution such as tribunals or courts. For companies as well as communities, escalating a conflict to a court or other formal tribunal can be lengthy and costly, and may not necessarily deliver satisfactory results for either party. For companies, the negative publicity can cause even greater damage. By creating a project-level structure, the company can address the source of the problem more efficiently by offering tailored solutions that Borden Lake near Chapleau, Ontario. The proximity of cottages to Goldcorp Inc.'s Borden project resulted in a Community Feedback Protocol.

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