Poor resettlement plans weigh on critical minerals production, experts say
Unless displacement impacts are managed deftly, they stand a high chance of becoming a barrier to timely and successful production, the Mining Indaba hears
Mining companies’ failure to conduct, develop and implement thorough resettlement plans for affected communities came with risks including protracted litigation, reputational damage and delays in sourcing critical minerals needed for the energy transition.
This was the consensus of mining bosses and a leading consulting firm in the mining land resettlement space during a panel discussion at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Tuesday.
Anglo American land access and resettlement manager Karien Lotter-Dogru said the importance of successfully addressing the challenge of land access cannot be overstated as it holds implications for individual projects and the mining industry as a whole.
“Securing land for new projects often involves a resettlement process to manage physical and economic displacement impacts of the local community. If these displacement impacts are not managed deftly, they stand a high chance of becoming a significant barrier to the timely and successful production of the minerals we are after,” she said.
She said the fallout from poorly planned or poorly implemented resettlement plans often led to community resistance and litigation that could sap financial resources from mining groups or affect their public image negatively.
Gerry Reddy of Steyn Reddy Associates said properly planned displacement can help mining groups with the process from discovery to start-up and the industry should start thinking about land management and land access.
“Mining development is already taking a long time. From discovery to start-up, it’s taking on average nearly 16 years to develop a mine, which doesn’t bode well, already, for the critical minerals that we need for the green transition. So properly planned land access and displacement can certainly help with that period, particularly from permitting, to construction, to start-up,” he said.
Mining companies need to start thinking about land management and land access as early as the exploration stage, said Reddy, so resettlement could take place quickly, appropriately and cost-effectively.
Even though much work already goes into mine planning, miners cannot afford to cut corners on meaningful engagements with affected towns, he added.
According to the Mining Indaba organisers, this year’s event registered 11,000 delegates from 126 countries, with about 8,000 attending on the first day.
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