Communities in Southern Africa are often poor, under-educated, disempowered, and in need of employment. They lack experience with large development projects and the knowledge of potential impacts and benefits. They have high, often unrealistic, expectations, and inadequate awareness of their own rights or the capacity to exercise these rights. These factors combine to make engagement with communities at the commencement of mining projects critical. Public engagement is the cornerstone of social impacts assessments. Such assessments are themselves key to environmental impact assessments (EIAs) in Southern African settings. Good engagement with communities is also necessary to ensure that expectations are managed. This engagement must include awareness raising and information dissemination to the community. This limits the potential for external exploitation of the community, and enhances the potential for community buy-in into the project. It will also establish the nature of the partnership between the community and the mine if the project proceeds. The sooner such engagement commences, the greater the chances for community participation in key decisions around the project. This is essentially a way of managing sustainability risks and facilitating avoidance of costly legacies on closure. The human resources function, for example, is an area where many of the early benefits and negative social impacts can be managed. Managing this requires high levels of buy-in and understanding of social issues by the project proponents. This paper illustrates some of the opportunities that may present themselves during the EIA process for avoiding the creation of legacies.
Hoadley, E.M & Limpitlaw, D. (2008). Preparation for closure — Community engagement and readiness starting with exploration. In A.B. Fourie, M. Tibbett, I.M. Weiersbye, & P. J. Dye (Eds.), Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Mine Closure. Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Johannesburg (pp. 845-851).