SRK adds socio-economic value to project investments

In terms of current international standards and in the regulatory requirements of many countries, many mining and industrial projects require a full Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and Management Plan (ESMP). While an ESIA is critical for identifying and assessing project-related impacts, it is the management plan that shows how the impacts should be addressed. Without appropriate management planning and the systems and capacity to implement it, an impact assessment is an academic exercise.

The social elements of management planning are especially important where project investments can improve the social and economic circumstances of communities and promote human development. The orthodox approach to company-supported community development is through Corporate Social Investment (CSI). In line with modern best practice, SRK’s team of social and economic experts has developed an extended view of social management that seeks to plan and secure social and economic benefits for a community in several contexts:

Social engagement

A social engagement approach moves beyond orthodox ESIA consultation to life-of-project engagement between companies and stakeholders. This approach seeks to promote trust and partnership, laying a foundation for other areas of social interaction. SRK has assisted many clients to develop stakeholder engagement plans, including the establishment of permanent liaison forums.

Social development

Companies often see social development as a series of good deeds. SRK believes that development must be owned by communities, and has worked with clients to formulate social development plans that transfer decision making to communities, as company-community trust builds. The final outcome is usually a cooperative development foundation or trust, with provision for other benefactors to become involved.

Community health and safety

Mining and industrial projects have the potential to threaten community health and safety. In the past, these impacts were addressed through discrete mitigating measures. SRK’s approach is to encourage community participation in health and safety planning, thereby agreeing to the mitigation approach, and finding ways to extend company health and safety initiatives to neighbouring communities.

Resettlement and compensation Resettlement sometimes accompanies mining and industrial projects. The best practice is to avoid it, where possible. However, where there is no alternative, the resettlement process can be used as a vehicle to improve the quality of life of those involved. In this context, SRK has advised clients on the restoration of livelihoods and on enhancement programs to accompany resettlement.

Closure

The socio-economic consequences of closure can be catastrophic. SRK advocates a multi-level social planning process well ahead of closure, with a focus on opportunities. Among the topics considered are retraining workers with new skills, small business training for workers, the dissemination of a skills register to other employers, discussions on economic diversification with local business leaders, and planning for the orderly transfer of assets that are of value to the local community.

Tim Hart: thart@srk.co.za



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