Understanding Social Impacts in Mining

Mining can transform environments, economies, and collectivities in real and significant ways. A range of stakeholders have a role to play in analyzing and managing the risks and impacts associated with mining. These stakeholders include companies, the state legislature, government service agencies, lenders and insurers, civil society and advocacy groups, and collectivities and their representative bodies. Social scientists tend to use the term social impact to refer to the consequences of a project’s development as experienced by individuals or groups of people. Social impacts can occur at global, regional, national, and local scales. In some places these impacts are cumulative, for example, that there are several coal mining regions in Australia where multiple mines are concentrated in a particular area. The cumulative impact of noise, dust, and other emissions from mines located in close proximity can intensify mining’s impact.

You can explore changes in different locations over time and get a sense of cumulative impacts. Social impacts from mining can be negative or positive. We can take the social impacts linked to water as an example. Some mines have significantly damaged waterways, in areas around the world, such as Papua New Guinea in Oceania, French Guiana in South American, or in regions of West Africa, where ecosystems have been devastated through the discharge of waste directly into the river, affecting communities downstream. There are also examples where companies have improved access to water by building much needed infrastructure and introducing sanitation and health programs, either as a development contribution or to remediate an impact.

 

Social impacts can be direct or indirect. Indirect impacts are triggered by a chain of impacts linked to mining. For example, mining can trigger the immigration of work seekers. New arrivals into an area can in turn impact on affordability and availability of housing. Rapid population growth could overburden local services which could in turn disrupt people’s lives and under some circumstances cause tension and conflict. If collectivities are able to adapt, population change can trigger economic multiplier effects, support local business, and attract further impact investment (e.g. agricultural, sanitation, education projects), however it takes concerted effort by different levels of government and companies to ensure that impacts are systematically monitored and managed over time. It’s not yet that common that systematic monitoring and management of social impacts are built into project approval processes.

Barksanem™’s approach aims to restore equilibrium and progressively build a more virtuous model for the benefit of the local populations, in a better-preserved environment. We believe that fundamental elements of context prior to the establishment of any business activity, should be considered. We call such an approach, the “Territorial Approach”.

A territorial approach takes into consideration the local dynamics which are characterized by cultural, economic, political and / or “symptomatic” factors (referring to recurring problems in that area). These factors can be defined separately or holistically but our approach takes into consideration the overall situation of the targeted area. Before setting up operations in these areas, we worked with the traditional authorities of the surrounding villages, as with local and provincial governments to convey our approach and our intentions.

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