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Dealing with uncertainty is part of mineral exploration. The success rate for prospecting and early exploration projects is extremely low, with fewer than 1 in 10,000 mineral showings discovered actually becoming a mine. Add to that the high probability that a project will change ownership during the exploration phase, not to mention over the life cycle of a mine. While these realities may be clear for people working in the industry, they are often not well understood by communities impacted by exploration projects. Even if you have explained the unpredictable nature of exploration, your company’s departure from the site – whether it’s for the season, until the market recovers, or for good – may come as a shock to the community. Leaving on good terms with community stakeholders will be critical for the future of your project, and can have a serious impact on the impression that stakeholders will have of the mining industry overall.

As you prepare to leave your project, give some thought to the following considerations:
Local Communities
  • Have you explained to community members why you are leaving and do they understand?
  • Have you considered ending on a festive note (rather than simply disappearing), such as organizing a community event?
  • Are there any outstanding commitments or promises you need to fulfill or address?
  • Do you plan to keep the community updated on the state of the project while you are away? If so, how?
  • Do you have good engagement records so, if your company sells the project, your successors will know what has been discussed (including any outstanding commitments)?
  • Do you have a good complaints and grievances record? Are there any outstanding grievances you need to address before your departure?
  • Have you taken steps to ensure the exploration site will not pose any safety or environmental risks during your absence?
  • Is there a way for the community to contact the company? 
Local Workers / Contractors
  • Have you provided local workers with a reference letter or other document they could use to secure future employment?
  • Did you consider providing local workers with help in drafting a resume to increase their chances of finding employment?
  • Are you sure that all outstanding bills have been paid and accounts settled with local contractors and goods and services providers?
  • Are there any local contracting opportunities that could be continued during your absence (e.g., security contracts, environmental monitoring)?
Local Authorities
  • Is there a plan to use or maintain any remaining physical structures during your absence, or are you handing them over?
  • Have you fulfilled any site clean-up or reclamation requirements?

The uncertainty of mineral exploration does not mean there should be uncertainty about relationships with local communities. By demonstrating respect for local stakeholders, their values and their way of life, and by taking the time to listen and learn, you can implement a simple but effective engagement program that will allow your company to conduct its work in a stable environment. From desktop research, to boots on the ground, to saying goodbye, effective community engagement can and should be a straightforward part of any responsible mineral exploration project.