In collaboration with global mining business, Anglo American, we piloted a new technology that would deepen their understanding of the social dimensions influencing communities near mining sites in real time.

The challenge

The importance of community engagement

Organisations in the energy and mining industry experience significant financial and reputational costs annually due to conflicts of interests with communities near mining operations.

The relationship between mining organisations and locals is challenging due to the scale of operations, the remoteness of some locations and the major economic influence operations have within the region.

The continuation of operations is reliant on meaningful engagement with local communities, and fostering a deeper understanding of social dimensions, allowing conflicts of interests to be mitigated and a sense of trust formulated.

Our response

Text message distributed surveys

In a 12-month pilot study, our researchers collaborated with Anglo American to understand local community views on mine activity in real time using a seamless, science-based technology called ‘reflexivity’.

Engaging with communities to build greater trust.  ©iStock

Reflexivity collects survey and other data from community members and mine stakeholders, before aggregating and analysing it using sophisticated statistical models, and communicates these insights through an interactive dashboard and other more traditional reporting methods tailored for context.

The study focused on five mine sites within South Africa, with the survey broken down into five questions a month over the course of a year. The survey focused on factors including the amount of disturbance through dust and noise, the effectiveness of existing social investment projects, employment opportunities, skill training and enterprise development initiatives.

The survey results suggested that participants had largely positive views of the mine’s impact on local business, community development and the environment. The data also showed that community members felt their concerns were listened and responded to by the mine operator, and there were high levels of trust and acceptance.

The results

Clarity on community needs and wants

Organisations who engage with communities using ‘reflexivity’ have a deeper understanding of the social drivers within a community, and possess the capacity to discern emerging issues, and respond in a timely manner.

Locals who engaged with the organisation through ‘reflexivity’ have said they believe the organisation is engaging with them in a positive manner and is providing the community with further opportunities to engage within the process.

We are now working to scale the reflexivity model up to realise its full commercial potential and give voice to the tens of thousands of community members living around large mining and infrastructure projects.

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