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.

Mining and Project Induced In-Migration

Mining Insights |  25 March 2021

What is Project Induced In-migration?

Project Induced In-migration (PIIM) is the movement of people into an area in anticipation of, or in response to, opportunities associated with the development and/or operation of a new project and is an inevitable consequence of project development. Exploration and development activities may directly induce in-migration or may be a catalyst for the broader economic development of the region that leads to in-migration. Either way, companies can contribute to a reduction of in-migration and prevent and/or mitigate the impacts. In-migration affects individuals, households and communities, traditional authorities and local government. Women, children, the elderly, and minorities – are particularly vulnerable to disruptive change. Unlike some other company related impacts, addressing PIIM is often not well understood  so here are a few ideas you might want to consider...

Why good In-migration practices are good for your business.

Reason #1: Avoiding Surprises.

In-migration can sneak up on you. It can start with just 5 new houses, then it becomes 20, then 50 and all of a sudden you have a community on your doorstep and as long as people see your mine as a way to a better future, they will keep coming. Making plans before in-migration is happening is one of the more effective strategies that can be adopted and is not expensive when compared with the alternative of responding after the fact.

Reason #2: Reducing the impact of PIIM on local communities.

In-migration is an inevitable consequence of project development and although it may benefit trade, employment, infrastructure, and services in the project area, the experience from the mining sector is that in-migration is more likely to have negative effects on host communities. The impacts are typically wide-ranging and include disruption to social networks, traditional cultural practices and hierarchies and pressure on the provision of basic government services including water, electricity, health and education as a result of spontaneous and unplanned urban growth.

Reason #3: Reducing the impact of PIIM on your business. 

In-migration starts during exploration and peaks during construction and early operations. Potential impacts need to be identified and mitigation plans put in place before migrants arrive. The major drivers of migration related increases to costs and risks (both operational and reputational) include the creation of new migrant stakeholder groups; unmet promises of local participation, benefit, and development; and deterioration in the social context in which the project is operating. Being pro-active and acting early provides the best opportunity to influence the result and is easier than reacting to rapid population growth and the accompanying pressure to direct resources towards mitigating the impacts for the life of the operation. Ignored and unmanaged, the negative impacts will result in increased project costs and increased operational and reputational risk, ultimately affecting your social license to operate.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Project Induced In-migration

WHAT DOES GOOD PRACTICE PIIM LOOK LIKE?

Good practice in relation to in-migration is to start early, understand the characteristics of your project that will influence in-migration, identify the trigger events that will draw people towards it and work with government to reduce the likelihood and consequences of rapid, unplanned population growth. 

I’M STARTING EARLY EXPLORATION SO WHAT SHOULD I DO?

A first easy step is to observe what is happening on site over time. Take a walk or drive around the local community at the start and end of each campaign of field work. More houses, new shops, bars and restaurants are all signs that in-migration is happening even at this early stage. Ask your staff what changes they are seeing – new faces in the community, higher rents, more traffic – all easy to track indicators of change. Talk to the local chief, the mayor and the local government administrator – they will all have a finger on the pulse.

Drone imagery can be particularly useful during exploration, pre-feasibility and feasibility stages when it is not possible or practical to do in-depth ground-based studies. Regularly updated imagery can be used to establish the geographical extent of any influx and land use changes that may be occurring in and around the project area.

Build an understanding of the project specific drivers of in-migration as soon as you can by incorporating an in-migration assessment into the screening phase of your Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, with a specific requirement to include a prediction of in-migration pathways and hotspots and a prediction of the rate and magnitude of in-migration.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PITFALLS I NEED TO AVOID?

Pitfall #1: Companies often expect governments to take responsibility for dealing with in-migration and do not get in-migration management onto the radar until it is too late, at which time the company feels obliged to, or is compelled to, take remedial action. Local Government may lack the capacity (or will) to pro-actively plan for in-migration unless they are encouraged to do so. The best result for all concerned is a collaborative approach to planning, done early, before significant influx happens. 

Pitfall #2: Offsite project infrastructure you build and the increased availability of services and utilities associated with it often leads to pressure being placed on you by community and local government to either share resources or meet the cost of providing resources to the public.

Pitfall #3: Not realising that decisions relating to the provision of worker housing have knock-on effects with: (i) the local demand for housing; (ii) the pressure placed on existing infrastructure, services, and utilities; (iii) the development of local economies to support the workforce; and (iv) the development of local level jealousies regarding standards of housing, utilities, and services, as well as post-project disposal of housing.

HOW CAN I DETER JOBSEEKERS FROM FLOODING IN?

One approach that has been effective in encouraging non-skilled jobseekers to stay home is a combination of: 

  1. Defining who are local and who are outsiders;
  2. Publicly committing to hiring 100% local people for non-skilled labour positions;
  3. Radio announcements in main population centres. Along the lines of “if you are not local and you do not have specific skills, stay home”;
  4. Enforcement of local hiring rules with contractors and subcontractors through use of specific local content clauses with incentives/penalties;
  5. Strict enforcement of a no-hiring-at-the-gate rule.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO AVOID UNPLANNED URBAN GROWTH?

Collaborating with local government to develop and implement master urban/spatial plans for existing and new settlements within the project area is one approach. Where government capacity and resources are limited, you may want to consider partnering with NGOs to provide technical assistance and capacity building to local and regional governments in areas such as governance and revenue management, infrastructure planning and delivery, and improved delivery of health and education services. You could also consider including in-migration related provisions (such as an increased presence of government services) as part of negotiations around your investment agreement.  


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