I’ve been in the mining game for more than thirty years starting out, as many mining engineers do, working on the tools underground, moving through a number of operations and project management roles before starting my community relations adventure when I took up an opportunity in Ghana in 2005. Post graduate Community Relations Management studies at University of Queensland, a two year stint in Madagascar and a series of short term assignments in Brazil, Canada, Ghana (again and again), Indonesia, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia and Uganda round out my community relations management experience.
The early days in Ghana introduced me to the Newmont Health, Safety, Environment and Community Integrated Management System which was industry-leading practice at the time. I also had the opportunity to work with data management pioneers Boreal-is and with Luc Zandvliet, co-author in 2009 with Mary B Anderson of ‘Getting it Right. Making Corporate – Community Relations Work’. Luc has become a friend as well as a colleague and has been one of the biggest influences on my thinking about the social issues related to mining - as my first contact with the “other side”, introducing me to the importance of conflict management and the fact (obvious with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight) that mining development by default creates tension and conflict, and that it is how companies approach conflict – as an opportunity or a threat – that shapes the relationship between the company and the community. Taken together the three provided direction, structure and process for me as a community relations novice.
The other big influence was an early experience of getting it wrong, where an ill-considered comment was interpreted as an ultimatium to essentially "take it or else..." and led to a surprising (at the time) clash and a tragic result. That wake-up call has stayed with me ever since. Helping others to avoid getting themselves into the same situation is the main reason for doing what I do now.