Most Australian resource companies recognise that effective community engagement enhances their corporate reputation and underpins their social licence to operate. Industry-leading companies also understand that the socio-economic impacts of their operations need to be assessed and managed with the same rigour as environmental, health and safety imapcts. Some companies, however, fail to see the value of robust community engagement or socio-economic impact assessment during mine closure planning. A robust approach to mine closure planning considers community impacts and relevant mitigation strategies in both the lead-up to mine closure and during mine closure - in fact, some would advocate that consideration of the social aspects of closure should be undertaken from the inception of a project or operation. This paper will demonstrate a best-practice approach to assessing socio-economic impacts of mine closure, and will outline how to engage with communities during this time of uncertainty. Through discussion of a range of practical case studies, a suite of tools will be highlighted that can be used at an operational level to assess the status of key community assets and capitals and in determining a community's sustainability when facing closure of a nearby mine. Such tools include: community sensitivity analysis (Coakes and Sadler, 2011), town resource cluster analysis (Fenton et al., 2003), stakeholder mapping and community needs assessment. In addition, effective management strategies to prepare communities for mine closure will be explored and recommended approaches to community engagement during each phase of mine closure discussed. Mine closure can afford genuine opportunities for communities when companies are proactive, diligent, and comprehensive in their planning approach. This paper will demonstrate how companies can work with communities to leave a positive legacy and genuinely support a community's sustainability long after a mining operation is gone.
K. Lamb and S. Coakes. (2012). Effective social planning for mine closure. In A.B. Fourie & M. Tibbett (Eds.), Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Mine Closure. Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Brisbane (pp. 627-639).