Victoria's minerals industry has always been an integral part of the state's social and environmental fabric and has supported strong communities since the Gold Rush of the 1850s.
Maintaining its social capital is a priority for Victoria's minerals industry.
Explorers, project developers and operators match their community engagement and development to the needs and interests of host communities as well as the type of activity being undertaken. Approaches also evolve over time to take into account changes in operations and community characteristics. Specific engagement is also undertaken with landholders and Indigenous representatives.
In addition to one-on-one engagement on particular issues or opportunities, community engagement avenues in Victoria include stakeholder listening posts, site tours, information sessions and regular communications through letters, newsletters and social media. This engagement is supported by established processes for managing stakeholder inquiries or concerns.
Community reference groups are also an increasing important aspect of community engagement regarding minerals projects.
These groups may include stakeholder representatives to provide feedback and input about a particular project, and help share economic, project or operational information with host communities.
Supporting community and regional development through sponsorship and partnerships is an equally important part of community engagement approaches for established projects.
Supporting 168 community organisations and counting
Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville Gold Mine is one of Australia’s leading gold operations, located approximately 20 kilometres from Bendigo.
Operating since 2016, Fosterville employs approximately 450 people and each year contributes approximately $90 million to the Bendigo economy through wages and the purchases of goods and services.
Actively involved in the Bendigo community, Fosterville engages with the community through outreach sessions and listening posts to engage with neighbours and residents of adjacent townships. More than 500 people also attended Fosterville’s 2016 community open day, which included site tours and discussions with site environmental, geology and operational specialists.
Fosterville is also committed to supporting regional development with 168 local groups sharing in more than $240,000 of community grants since 2005. Recent recipients include the Bendigo Science and Technology Centre, Central Deborah Tourist Gold Mine, Eaglehawk Hockey Club and Dja Dja Wurrung Tram.
A new community wetlands for Heathcote
Surrounded by farmland approximately 150 kilometres from Melbourne, Mandalay Resources’ Costerfield Operations is Australia’s only gold-antimony mine. Operating in its current since 2006, Costerfield’s workforce includes approximately 200 employees most of whom live within 85 kilometres of the site.
Costerfield is committed to being a good neighbour to surrounding landholders and its broader host community. Regular outreach includes key stakeholder visits, a monthly community meeting and a joint community and employee footy tipping competition. Costerfield also invests in community development through sponsorship of various initiatives, including the Whroo Goldfields Conservation Management Network Nest Box Program and Heathcote Community House.
In 2015 Costerfield purchased 4.5 acres of vacant farmland to create a new wetlands in partnerships with the community. Billabong pools and habitat logs have since been established and more than 4000 native trees and grasses planted at the site with support from Conservation Volunteers Australia and other community groups.
Developing Ballarat’s next generation of mining professionals
CGT Ballarat is a gold mine located in the heart of Ballarat. The mine is a major driver of the region’s economy, spending approximately $21 million on goods and services in Ballarat and surrounding areas annually.
In 2017 CGT Ballarat built on this contribution through a new partnership with Federation University Australia, also located in Ballarat, to support development of the region’s next generation of mining professionals.
The joint work placement program enabled seven students at the University’s School of Mines to gain hands-on experience and work directly with geology, mine engineering and metallurgy professionals at CGT Ballarat. Feedback from the program was positive with plans underway to continue in 2018.
Working together on mine rehabilitation
Providing opportunities for community feedback about progressive rehabilitation efforts and site environmental conversation is a priority for EnergyAustralia’s Yallourn mine in the Latrobe Valley. Yallourn completed 28.7 hectares of progressive rehabilitation against a plan of 25 hectares in 2016.
These opportunities include the 2016 Yallourn Open Day, attended by more than 1600 residents, and ongoing community displays. At each, community members are invited to make suggestions and ask questions about progressive rehabilitation activities, with specific feedback sought on Yallourn’s Rehabilitation Master Plan Lake design.
A fly-over video animation also assists community members to visualise the Rehabilitation Master Plan and shows the area transforming from a mining operation to an interconnected lake surrounded by wetlands, grasslands and public recreational areas.
Feedback and input is sought at quarterly environmental review committee meetings, a forum of approximately 20 community representatives, regulatory authorities and other groups interested in Yallourn’s operations.
EnergyAustralia Yallourn also provides community funding for local initiatives that aim to deliver sustainable benefits to the Latrobe Valley, with priority areas for funding including:
- Education: Funding aimed at promoting education and knowledge acquisition. This can include programs with a social or environmental focus and organisations which support career or skill development.
- Social inclusion: Funding aimed at facilitating social inclusion. This is aimed at initiatives that support community cohesion and can include such things as men’s sheds, upgrading communal facilities, improving local amenities and supporting vulnerable community members.