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3 Ways to Build Trust and Engagement in Operating Communities

Without a doubt, trust and engagement play a pivotal role in mining projects. Because the sector is often associated with a negative connotation, develo...

|Mar 17|magazine10 min read

Without a doubt, trust and engagement play a pivotal role in mining projects. Because the sector is often associated with a negative connotation, developing relationships with communities based on trust and engagement is critical to the short and long-term success of projects.

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The following initiatives serve to better strengthen relationships with operating communities as well as build a solid foundation of trust among local stakeholders.

Focus groups

To build trust in operating jurisdiction, transparency is imperative.  

For the company’s Eagle Mine in Michigan, the first new mine in decades, Lundin Mining knew it needed to be crystal clear about future mining plans with the community.

The company commissioned a series of focus groups to identify the issues of importance such as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats from the community’s perspective in regards to the new mining project.

“We set out to be very transparent with the community and make this project a two-way engagement,” says Mike Welch, General Manager of Eagle Mine.

“I think every operation has to look at what their own community’s concerns and interests are, and what is the best way for all parties to communicate.”

Community scorecards

One surefire way to build community trust and confidence in mining projects is to give community members a voice.

In the case of Eagle Mine, once the company developed environmental and community programs aimed at addressing the community’s interest it commissioned a community scorecard. During town meetings, community members scored the company’s performance in five areas -environmental performance, local hire, safety, communication and engagement, and community development – and then published the results on their website and in the local paper.

By allowing the community to express its opinions and rate the company’s ongoing performance, trust and confidence naturally began to form.

“Historically, there have been perceived risks to such an open and frank style of communication, however that has not been a consideration and all our efforts have been of full value,” says Welch.

“For us, this works. The community has appreciated the opportunity for two-way dialog and as time moves on, community concerns have dampened. People have come up to us and thanked us for the transparency of the project. This has helped build more trust in our community relationships.”

Environmental monitoring

To ensure promises are met and operations continue cleanly, monitoring and reporting progress must remain intact throughout the entire process. Case in point: Eagle Mine’s environmental performance.

To take its community initiatives a step further, Eagle Mine developed an independent program to conduct environmental monitoring of its mining operations.  The program, which was administered by the Marquette County Community Foundation, provided the community with third-party verification monitoring at the mine, mill and along the transportation route.

By utilizing these three tips, mining companies can effectively create a legacy of responsible mining in their own operating communities.