Mining, Community Engagement And Accountability Process

In mining operation, power base lies with community engagement, and that must put the community at the centre of mineral exploration and resource utilization in a way that will give room to well-suited economic growth, social-cultural well-being, and environmental safety.

As Nigerian state plans huge investment in mining, it is important that she realizes that communities’ vigorous interest in mining and exploration is a fundamental driver in the efficient delivery and that makes it easy for community engagement in the mining business.

The community engagement we seek is the type that involves interactions among recognized groups and procedures that are connected to problem-solving or choice making where community participation is used to make better choices. It must not only be to get consent about a predetermined position. This is because, when that happens, it is not engagement, but, rather, a public relations exercise where information is given out. For it to be qualified as community engagement, it must involve a choice that nevertheless been made which the community can have influence. Engaging communities on a choice that is yet to be made gives them the confidence that they have been heard, and that legitimizes the process.

Community participation no doubt improves the quality of decision and overcome the obstacle in the formation of policies and procedures. The attitude of community consultations in any decision-making is a mechanism that leads to legitimacy which represents “participatory decision-making” which is at the very heart of the idea of our democratic norm. This further leads to community, companies and government interests being protected. When all parties concerned are consulted and they fully participate in the development of agreement and procedures, subsequently, the agreement will not only be applied easily but will be observed by people willingly.

In overall, all community engagement must be based on mutual trust, respect and effective communication among the mining companies and community inhabitants. Most importantly, the engagement must not be a one-off; it must be a continuous process, flexible and transparent in order to respond to community needs and challenges that might evolve as the projects develop.

In the past, we have had mining companies operate in communities without community consultation and participation in the entire process. And, the resistance to mining operations no doubt can be traced to this. What this has led to is that there is the decline of community trust in mining operations and the institutions that ought to oversee it. And, transparent process of decision-making and the inclusion of all parties concerned into the process directly influence the regaining of trust.

As Nigeria embraces mining exploration, we urge the state to have a policy that will guarantee appropriate community engagement. And in that policy, communities’ opportunity to interrelate with mining companies and give the opinion about mining activities that either impact or are significant to them must be guaranteed.

And to achieve this, core government agencies involved in overseeing our extractive sector must be trained on the current administration of the minerals licensing regime. Through this means, they will have a better knowledge of setting environmental standards, monitoring compliance and ensuring that the communities are properly engaged.

Emmanuel Damusa