Responsible mining and metals companies are committed to developing positive relationships with communities close to their operations. This process requires constant attention, as there is always more that can be done, to maintain a company’s social licence to operate. When people have to be resettled, this relationship can be particularly difficult to manage.
Mining companies cannot freely choose the site of a project. When a mine needs to be established close to an existing community, it can unfortunately necessitate the relocation of people. This can only be done with the explicit approval of national or local government, but it nonetheless presents significant risks to those affected and the company involved.
While the starting point for ICMM member companies is to either avoid or minimise the need to resettle people, in some situations resettlement is required for a mining project to proceed. If so, resettlement planning should start early, with companies meaningfully engaging with affected communities to assess and mitigate potential impacts. An outcome that requires companies invest enough human or financial resources to ensure the process is sensitively managed.
When companies manage resettlement activities well, they can make a positive contribution to development. Equally, when resettlement activities are poorly managed communities can face a decline in their quality of life. While companies will likely face disruption as a result of local conflict, possible legal action and loss of reputation (which may also significantly damage their social licence to operate).
In 2015, ICMM published Land acquisition and resettlement: lessons learned, which distils insights gained from 41 projects from around the world, in the mining sector and others. It offers practical guidance on how resettlement can be done well; achieved through planning, engaging with stakeholders, compensating for loss of land and restoring livelihoods, addressing the needs of vulnerable people and monitoring impacts.