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The Benefits of Engaging Stakeholders ... Before You Think It's Necessary

Mark Liskowich
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
First presented: 

Most mining companies miss out on significant benefits to their projects by not developing and initiating a Stakeholder Engagement Management Plan early enough in their project’s evolution.

With the exception of consultations completed to meet regulatory requirements for exploration permits and meetings requested by community leaders, the typical approach to such planning is to delay stakeholder engagement to coincide with the initiation of the Environmental Assessment of a project. A plausible explanation for overlooking this step is simply that the professionals driving the engineering studies of a new project specialize in the technical aspects of the project. Stakeholder engagement is a project component they are aware of, but it is a task that typically falls outside their wheelhouse or area of expertise. Therefore, the tendency is to delay it until a decision is made to advance the project into the environmental assessment process, which typically involves professionals specializing in engagement. This usually results with stakeholder engagement beginning at the completion of the prefeasibility engineering phase or after the Environmental Assessment of the project has been initiated. And this means that valuable input gathered during stakeholder engagement is much more difficult to integrate into the design of the project.  

Stakeholders are looking for the opportunity to provide input to the design of the project at all levels, but generally, this input is focused on environmental protection. As an example, it is not uncommon for stakeholder groups to have strong opinions on where effluent is discharged, based on existing uses of the environment. However, making a change of this magnitude at this late stage of the project is difficult. It needs to be technically vetted and if the change is significant enough, it could delay and/or restart the regulatory process. The results are a reluctance to entertain change and a perception from stakeholders that their opinion isn’t really wanted.

The optimal time to initiate stakeholder engagement is at the completion of a project’s Preliminary Economic Assessment (with positive results) so the engagement runs concurrently with the Prefeasibility Study. This start time allows for considering and possibly integrating stakeholder feedback into the project’s design. It allows ample time for relationships based on trust and respect to develop and it provides these communities with valuable time to develop strategies with and without the operator’s support – time to develop capacity that increases their ability to be ready to capitalise on future opportunities if the project proceeds to production.

Feature Author

Mark Liskowich

Mark has more than 20  years of experience as an environmental manager in the exploration and mining sectors. He has participated in and managed a number of feasibility studies and environmental assessments associated with these studies for a variety of mining clients. With experience in a wide variety of commodities and a focus on environmental management and compliance, Mark has worked on exploration projects, operating, inactive and abandoned mines.

Mark's experience has given him expertise in the areas of environmental assessments (local and international) environmental management, environmental auditing and due diligence, project permitting, licensing, public and regulatory consultation and project management. Mark has co-authored many Technical Instrument 43-101 compliant reports as a Qualified Person responsible for the chapters focused on environmental and social management.


Principal Environmental Geologist
SRK Saskatoon
SRK Africa