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Engaging Communities for Success: social impact assessment and social licence to operate at Northparkes Mines, NSW

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Social issues are critical to the mining industry. This study investigates how social issues have been, and are being, assessed and managed within this industry through a case study of Northparkes Mines in central west New South Wales (NSW). The research involved 29 interviews with mining executives, environmental consultants and citizens of Parkes, plus a document analysis of four environmental impact statements prepared between 1990 and 2012. Where appropriate, findings were extrapolated to the wider mining industry. The standard for social impact assessment in NSW and emerging industry guidelines on social responsibility were analysed against internationally accepted good practice. Interviews indicated greater potential to recognise the social impacts of mining in NSW and identified good practice impact assessment as only one component of a successful community engagement strategy. Complementary strategies are essential to extend the benefits of development to local communities and for companies to establish a ‘social licence to operate’. The successful approach taken by Northparkes Mines combined good practice impact assessment with a localised workforce, an integrated management team and context-specific community engagement practices. This study highlights that local communities can be empowered through development, that benefits can extend to both the community and the business and that the ongoing management of social issues will increasingly be critical to the success of the mining industry.
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Keywords: Social impact assessment; community; mining; social licence to operate; sustainability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Sydney, Australia

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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