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Introduction > Addressing Impacts

Addressing Impacts


Recognizing that the long-term success of a mine depends on achieving “net benefits” for the local community, and on maintaining good relationships with communities and governments, some mining companies go beyond the official requirements and work with stakeholders to keep them informed and proactively involve them in decision-making. Depending on company choices, community perspectives and on the nature of the regulatory processes involved in a specific project, community involvement may be focused either withing or outside the formal regulatory framework.

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Public Meeting, Navajo County
Opportunities for involvement may include chances to: influence design decisions and operational practices; learn how to prepare for future employment; set up agreements that address specific needs and vulnerabilities; set up monitoring and reporting; and address issues associated with ensuring that benefits last beyond the life of the mine.

International mining industry organizations have published several different guides for maintaining effective and productive relationships between companies and communities, governments and other stakeholders. The guides uniformly advocate engagement, including involvement in decision-making throughout the life of the mine. Forums, focus groups, work groups, websites, newsletters and many other techniques may be included in an engagement strategy. Communities and companies sometimes choose to collaborate on topics such as: workforce development, local sourcing and procurement, local business development, management of companies’ social investment funds, and monitoring and reporting on environmental and socio-economic indicators.

In pursuit of good mining practices and open and transparent relationships between mining companies and Arizona citizens, several groups and individuals formed Arizona Mining Reform Coalition. The mission of the Coalition is to ensure that responsible mining contributes to healthy communities, a healthy environment, and, when all costs are factored in, is a net benefit to Arizona.

If public processes become contentious, sometimes a “professional neutral” facilitator is brought in to assist with negotiations, helping the parties reach agreement. Organizations such as the Consensus Building Institute and the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution and others provide those types of services.


Permitting

Regulatory processes vary greatly depending on features of individual mining projects. The focus may be either at the federal or state level. Whereas other types of industrial projects often involve county-level permitting processes, mines typically do not because they are exempt by state law in Arizona. Consequently, official county-level permitting processes, such as those involved in special use permits, aren’t a major focus of regulation for mines.

Depending on whether the focus is at the state or
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City of Holbrook
federal level, the opportunities for public involvement differ, and the range of issues addressed differs. Broadly, the types of issues that may be in play are environmental, socio-economic and cultural and historic issues.

If the project has significant federal impacts, as it would if it involves leases for exploration or mining on BLM land, it triggers the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the focus is at the federal level. A federal agency is the lead agency, coordinating regulatory processes, and an Environmental Assessment (EA) is completed. If the EA shows that further analysis is needed, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is completed.

The presence of the Petrified Forest National Park within the area doesn’t necessarily indicate that there is a federal nexus for projects in the Holbrook Basin, rather it depends on specific details of the project.

If a project doesn’t have a federal nexus, most permitting activities are coordinated at the state level. For projects involving state trust land, the lead agency is likely to be the Arizona State Land Department. The Office of the State Mine Inspector, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Arizona Department of Water Resources, the State Historic Preservation Office and possibly other agencies may be involved. Refer to the Arizona Mining Permitting Guide and Environmental Permitting Requirements - Proposed Potash Mining in the Holbrook Basin.

For public lands, in addition to NEPA there are several other federal and state laws that govern exploration and mining. Potash mining is a type of softrock or solid mineral mining. It is considered a non-metal, industrial mineral. At the federal level it is governed primarily by the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. After the passage of the Mineral Leasing Act and associated amendments, potash was no longer included in the General Mining Law of 1872, which governs mining of minerals such as copper, uranium, gold and silver.

Monitoring and Reporting

As part of their corporate responsibility and sustainability programs, some companies track and publish socio-economic and environmental indicators in annual reports, often developed according to guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative or the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES). Large companies are naturally more likely to have well-developed programs of this type, but the same principles pertain, regardless of the size and formality of the program.

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Main Street, St. Johns
Indicators and reporting may be defined during the planning stage in collaboration with community representatives. Environmental monitoring and reporting might address, for example: the water table; water quality; subsidence (sinking of the land surface); seismic events and air quality (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, dust and other air pollutants). To track monitoring results and review changes over time, a community-based, multi-party monitoring board might be established. This can help to ensure timely responses to problems and to preserve good-faith relationships between the community and companies over the long-term, through transitions in management, company ownership and changes in local area officials.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) requires reporting on revenue payments to governments.


Agreements

Tribal members and others look forward with hope to jobs and other socio-economic benefits. Negotiating agreements, especially during the planning stage, can help ensure that expectations are met and benefits realized. Agreements often address socio-economic participation, local benefits, or long-term resource management for special groups such as tribes. The agreements may be legally binding or depend only on good faith. They are sometimes called Opportunities
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Main Street, Snowflake
Agreements, Impact Benefit Agreements, Integrated Benefit Agreements, Impact Compensation Contracts or Host Community Agreements.

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is a strong theme throughout the mining industry. Many of the concerns about sustainability result from experiences with developing countries and indigenous communities, but they are also relevant to developed countries, and to native communities in those countries. Sustainable development practices address: the integration of economic, environmental and social considerations; the public’s concerns over the industry’s ability to manage environmental impacts and ensure net benefits to communities; and the need to take a “whole life of the mine” perspective.

Challenged by past practices and looking toward a better future, in 1998 ten international mining companies established the Global Mining Initiative (GMI). The GMI identified a range of issues, including waste disposal, environmental performance and benefits for communities. To address the issues and needs of a broad range of stakeholders, the GMI started the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) project. The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), was formed to implement the principles of the GMI.

Notably for local community concerns, the MMSD endorsed a variety of principles, including the principles of subsidiary and best practices. The principle of subsidiary states that local issues should be solved locally, and that decision-making should occur as close to the point of impact as possible. The concept of best practices similarly has a local focus, stating that a frequent response to the question of best practices is “it all depends.”

For More Information

Aboriginal Mining Guide: Negotiating Lasting Benefits for Your Community (Canada)

Breaking Ground: Engaging Communities in Extractive and Infrastructure Projects by the World Resources Institute

Development Without Conflict: The Business Case for Community Consent by the World Resources Institute

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Apache County
Environmental Permitting Requirements - Proposed Potash Mining in the Holbrook Basin, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Information Sheet, December 2011.

Sustainable Development Framework by the International Council on Mining and Metals

Managing Risk and Maintaining License to Operate: Participatory Planning and Monitoring in the Extractive Industries -- Concept Paper by the Oil, Gas, and Mining Sustainable Communities Development Fund (CommDev)

Sustainability Reporting Guidelines by the Global Reporting Initiative

The 21st Century Corporation: CERES Roadmap for Sustainability



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