Govenment focuses on community support

Govenment focuses on community support

Community engagement is firmly on the WA state government’s agenda.

New Mines and Petroleum Minister has again highlighted the issue – contributing to a growing emphasis on effective stakeholder engagement.

This year the state government has launched its first ever Community Partnership Resource Award intended to recognise “successful community programs run by resource companies that provide ongoing benefits to local communities, during and beyond the life of the associated resource projects”.

Last month recently appointed Mines and Petroleum Minister Sean L’Estrange said a “flood of entries” had been received and the winner would be announced in October.

“The department has launched this award to recognise projects that bring resource companies and their local communities together,” he said.

The new award contributes to growing emphasis on efforts being made by regulators to encourage engagement with local communities. In announcing the state budget this year the Department of Mines and Petroleum made it clear stakeholder engagement was firmly on the agenda.

Under significant issues impacting the Department of Mines and Petroleum, increasing community interest was listed.

“Particularly in relation to environmental and land access issues,” it says.

“This underlines the importance of transparent approval and regulatory processes and effective community engagement by industry and government.”

The department also updated its guidelines for stakeholder engagement around mining proposals this year. The guidelines state mining proposals must include information about stakeholder engagement around the project, including a summary of the Stakeholder Engagement Strategy.

Kirsty Danby, Vice President of the WA Mining Club and Director of Platform Communications, said the emphasis on stakeholder engagement had been growing over recent years.

“In the communications sector we have seen the level of importance given to community engagement continue to grow. The oil and gas sector has been front and centre of this shift.”

Ms Danby said the oil and gas sector’s regulator NOPSEMA has introduced clear guidelines whereby operators and proponents need to clearly demonstrate engagement with local communities, or risk being denied environmental approval.

“This has been a major change in the industry and it seems the mining sector is following closely behind the oil and gas sector,” Ms Danby said.

“It’s a positive move for all involved as the best projects are those that operate with the lowest risks as reasonably practicable with the opportunity of bringing benefits to the local communities – whether that be jobs, social investment or tourism opportunities.”