I first heard the words “meeting under the mango tree” as a euphemism for having a predictable, easy to access process for enabling community members to raise issues and concerns in a safe and familiar place. There is no fixed agenda and no one-size-fits-all for these exchanges. With one company we set up drop-in centres in each local village with a designated community officer in attendance everyday. Another made it known that a company person would be available “under the mango tree” for two hours every market day. I am hoping this blog will achieve something similar – the regular, free and open sharing of ideas and experiences. Time will tell how well it works out.
It used to be that satellite imagery or aerial photography was expensive and difficult to access. Now it is easy to see what is happening on the ground around projects. At its simplest you can start by logging into Google Earth, zooming in on a known set of coordinates or a local town name and having a play. If you have a team on the ground, asking them to take some drone imagery is cheap and easy to obtain and provides another level of detail.
So, what is it that can we learn?
In the context of a mining project, quite a lot...
- The distance between the deposit and the local communities is one simple example. By being able to see how far apart the two are, you can make an initial judgement of how big the community health and safety issues of dust, noise, vibration and visual impact are likely to be, the need for buffer zones or even relocation. If there are people living near the deposit the likelihood for resettlement will be high.
- The type of housing construction tells you something about the level of wealth.
- The type of agriculture can also give a feel for the level of poverty – people with small holdings of annual crops are more likely to be poorer than people with land under tree crops which are usually grown for cash. This same information will also allow you to make an initial call on the likely complexity of land ownership and user rights and the scale of compensation required.
- Forests are often community assets as sources of firewood, bush food and medicine and cultural significance.
- The presence or absence of nearby towns or cities will give a feel for the potential of the area as a source of job-ready employees, the likely pull factor for opportunistic migrants and the presence or absence of government services.
- Accessibility of the site by road or rail will give a feel for the logistical challenge of construction and operations. It will also indicate the potential to exacerbate in-migration because any work the project does that improves the quality of transport infrastructure will increase population mobility.
- Community Development
- Community Engagement
- Community Health
- Company Behaviour
- Mining Insights
- Responsible Business Management