The action is where the social is! The ecosystem services concept and other ideas for enhancing stakeholder engagement in integrated mine closure planning
Mine Closure 2019: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Mine Closure
Australian Centre for Geomechanics
School of Science / Centre for Ecosystem Management
Effective stakeholder engagement is integral to effective integrated mine closure planning. All aspects of mine closure planning from the geotechnical to environmental, social and economic, need to be communicated to, and developed in conjunction with input from, the public and other stakeholders. This is why the action is where the social is! Using the latest International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) good practice guide for integrated mine closure as its basis, this paper addresses four topics: (1) the role of stakeholder engagement in mine closure planning; (2) best practice principles for stakeholder engagement derived mainly from environmental impact assessment processes; (3) using an ecosystem services approach to stakeholder engagement; and (4) stakeholder engagement in a digital world. Review of recent literature, recent research utilising ecosystem services assessment in planning for mine site rehabilitation and closure in Brazil and Australia, along with procedural examples from Western Australia, are used to explore the theory and practice of effective stakeholder engagement. The ICMM guide establishes a role for mining companies in stakeholder engagement that extends beyond minimum legal compliance for consultation to enable deliberation, partnership, and a shared vision and responsibilities in mine closure planning and post-mining relinquishment. Where many components of mine closure planning are developed separately, including rehabilitation and closure criteria (which are often expressed using biophysical indicators), the integrated nature of ecosystem services thinking has been helpful when engaging with communities utilising pre- and post-mined areas to translate these into socially meaningful understanding of mine closure planning and its implementation. Mining company representatives involved in workshops conducted in Brazil and Australia indicated that the ecosystem services concept could be helpful in relation to mine closure planning, especially in relation to community engagement. Accelerating technological innovation and the use of digital media shows signs of promise for enhancing stakeholder engagement (for communities with good access to social media and the internet), although practice to date has emphasised consultation and basic communication with stakeholders rather than extending to full interaction and deliberation at the other end of the spectrum of public participation. Being a keynote address for the Mine Closure 2019 Conference, this paper is intended to have some relevance to all mine closure practitioners and to stimulate thinking and debate regarding ideas for enhancing stakeholder engagement in mine closure planning.