JV Content: Social engagement speeds permits, but some milestones earn little, experts say

Social engagement speeds permits, but some milestones earn few rewards mining experts sayThe Community engagement and social license to operate panel moderated by Adam Hawkins (L), president of Global External, with panellists Mckinsey Lyon, vice president of external affairs at Perpetua Resources; Judy Brown, South32‘s head of external affairs for the Americas; and Angela Johnson, vice president of corporate development and sustainability at Faraday Copper. Credit: Penda Productions

Early and constant engagement, transparency and trust building can make or break mining project approvals and remain best practice for achieving sustainable mining, a panel told The Northern Miner’s Energy Transition Metals Summit in Washington, D.C.

But several industry standards intended to aid permitting, like the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining program and the Copper Mark fail to reward compliant companies, panellists said, making their uptake less appealing. While the standards are important, they should have realistic and attainable goals, they said.

“Standards need to be attainable and reflect the realities of modern-day mining,” Mckinsey Miller Lyon, vice president of external affairs at Perpetua Resources (TSX: PPTA; NASDAQ: PPTA), told the April 30 sponsored panel Community engagement and social license to operate. She suggests that overly stringent requirements could be counterproductive.

Moderated by Adam Hawkins, president of Global External, the panellists criticized standards like IRMA for often being unattainably stringent, making full compliance impractical for existing mining operations. These standards can be overly complex and burdensome, especially for smaller companies, and fail to differentiate between varying regional regulatory environments, applying a one-size-fits-all approach.

The panellists also questioned the value of meeting these standards, saying they remained unclear and offered no obvious market advantages or premiums for companies. The stringent requirements may be too expensive in the current market, they said.

“One of the issues is it’s not clear what a standard gets you,” Judy Brown, South32‘s (LSE: S32; ASX: S32) head of external affairs for the Americas, said. “I mean, if you comply with IRMA at 95%, does that make it a green premium? Probably not. So, they can be quite onerous.”

The summit ran in coordination with Precious Metals Summit Conferences. Watch the full discussion below.

Early engagement is best

Even so, the panellists said miners must engage with communities early in the project and listen to concerns. Starting engagement well before entering regulatory processes allows for more responsive and effective project planning, they said.

“When we listen, it helps us challenge assumptions, inform us on risks, and build trust,” Lyon said.

Community engagement and social licence to operate are critical for miners to build trust, mitigate risks and ensure the long-term sustainability and acceptance of mining projects within local communities. These practices enhance reputations, contribute to economic and social benefits and prevent conflicts that could lead to costly delays or project cancellations.

While the panellists agreed that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to community engagement, they highlighted the importance of transparency, accountability and formalizing commitments.

Lyon mentioned that Perpetua entered into a community partnership agreement that established an advisory council and a foundation to support communities long-term when the company became serious about developing its Stibnite gold project in Idaho.

“We started community engagement six years before we entered into NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) permitting, which helped us build trust and resiliency with the communities,” she said. “This approach ensures that community voices are integrated into decision-making processes,” she said.

Perception management

Managing scrutiny and misinformation remains a significant challenge, much like little foxes nipping at their heels, according to Angela Johnson, vice president of corporate development and sustainability at Faraday Copper (TSX: FDY; US-OTC: CPPKF). The proliferation of social media platforms adds to this challenge, amplifying misinformation and increasing public scrutiny, she said

“The scrutiny we’re under, especially with the rise of social media, can be quite frustrating, especially when there’s misinformation circulated,” Johnson said.

The panellists stressed the importance of clear communication and consistent engagement to address these challenges effectively.

South32’s Brown took the engagement process a step further, saying internal alignment within companies, particularly among leadership, was just as critical to get projects moving along the development curve. These teams need to be well-resourced and supported by top management, she added.

“Your community relations teams are the face of your company every single day,” Brown said. ,

“I will not work for a company that does not have social performance around the CEO leadership table.”



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