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Metal Mining Technical Guidance for Environmental Effects Monitoring

Chapter 11

11. Public Involvement in Metal Mining EEM

11.1 Overview

11.2 Objective and Potential Scope of Public Involvement in EEM

11.3 Mechanisms for Public Involvement

11.4 Public Involvement Plan

11.1 Overview

The objective of this guidance is to help facilitate public involvement in the environmental effects monitoring (EEM) program, particularly on a site-specific basis. Mines are strongly encouraged to provide opportunities for public involvement in all aspects of the EEM program. Public input can play an important role throughout the EEM program, including the early planning steps prior to the initiation of EEM, preparation of the site characterization and the first study design, data interpretation for each EEM study at a site, and decisions regarding next steps in the EEM program at a site.

Following recommendations of the Whitehorse Mining Initiative (WMI) and the Assessment of the Aquatic Effects of Mining in Canada (AQUAMIN), public involvement is an important component of the metal mining EEM program. The WMI recommended the following as an underlying principle for public involvement: “More effective approaches to environmental management can be developed, and the public trust in mining enhanced, when the public and other stakeholders are fully informed and participate in decision making related to the public interest in all stages of mining.” The WMI and AQUAMIN recommended the use of public liaison committees (PLCs) (see section 11.3.1) as a mechanism for public involvement.

The focus of this chapter is on the “public” as a stakeholder group, as members of the public are often not significantly involved in programs such as EEM but may be able to make important contributions to the EEM program. However, it is important to recognize that the public is just one of several important stakeholder groups with an interest in the metal mining EEM program. For the purposes of this document, a stakeholder is defined as any person or group that has an interest in, is affected by, or has an effect on a watershed where a mine is operating, or has a role in decisions made pertaining to that watershed. The public includes all stakeholders with the exception of mining companies or associations, and federal, provincial, territorial, Aboriginal or municipal government departments or agencies.

It is important to bear in mind that “the public” is not a homogeneous group, and that within “the public” there may be several different stakeholders, each with different interests and concerns. For example, these interest groups may include Aboriginal groups, environmental non-governmental organizations, community groups, commercial and/or sport fishers, and concerned individuals.

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11.2 Objective and Potential Scope of Public Involvement in EEM

The objective of public involvement in EEM is to ensure that decisions made regarding metal mining EEM are a result of informed, inclusive and fair consultation with the public. Effective public involvement in EEM may result in:

  • improved EEM study design;
  • improved decision making in EEM;
  • increased relevancy of EEM;
  • increased degree of trust between all stakeholders, and established/improved working relationships;
  • improved public education, resulting in increased awareness and understanding of EEM issues; and
  • improved communication between stakeholders.

To achieve this objective and to derive maximum benefit from public involvement, mines are strongly encouraged to facilitate public involvement in a wide range of EEM activities, such as:

Pre-EEM: Before metal mines begin EEM, the public could have input regarding the site-specific objectives of EEM, as well as the site-specific questions to be addressed. This input would help in shaping the overall direction of the EEM program.

Site characterization: Public involvement during the preparation of the site characterization can be invaluable. Given their knowledge of local conditions, the public may make significant contributions to the description of the study area and possible confounding influences, particularly with respect to the fisheries. In addition, the public may be able to help in the identification of valued ecosystem components (VECs), which are elements of the environment valued for biological, scientific, socio-economic, aesthetic or cultural reasons. VECs may be used to help refine the site-specific objectives and site-specific questions. VECs could include, for example, a fish species of cultural or economic significance, a reach of a stream valued for recreational purposes, or a scenic view. If available, such information should be used in designing the EEM study.

Study design: Following the public involvement in site characterization, public involvement in study design may contribute to the establishment of site-specific environmental quality objectives, development of reporting procedures, and identification of suitable exposure and reference areas. In addition, the public may review study designs prior to the commencement of monitoring.

Monitoring activity: The public may be actively involved in some aspects of the monitoring work, particularly sample collection. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed a protocol for the collection of water samples by community groups. In British Columbia, the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation has developed a handbook that includes such topics as water sample collection, stream habitat surveys and stream invertebrate surveys. The existence of such programs points to the fact that, with proper training, the public can be involved in monitoring work. In the field, the public could augment the work of professionals in environmental monitoring. Public involvement can help increase the cost-effectiveness of monitoring, while at the same time increasing the awareness and knowledge of the public. Involving the public in monitoring provides an opportunity for the mine to train and educate the public in EEM, and to increase public awareness and understanding of EEM components.

Data assessment and interpretation: The public may review EEM interpretative reports, and have input on decisions regarding the next steps in the monitoring program. This input would be provided recognizing that there are certain aspects of the program that cannot be significantly altered.

11.3 Mechanisms for Public Involvement

Mines are encouraged to establish mechanisms for public involvement as early as possible in the EEM process, recognizing that mechanisms may evolve as relations with the public change. There is a range of mechanisms by which the public could be involved in metal mining EEM. The WMI and AQUAMIN strongly recommended the formation of PLCs as a mechanism for public involvement. However, the appropriate mechanism for a particular site depends, in part, on the intended scope and degree of public involvement at that site.

A mine may employ more than one mechanism to facilitate public involvement. This may be particularly helpful in cases where a mine wishes to use a complementary mechanism to reach a broader segment of the public. It may also be useful in cases where a mine wishes to use more than one mechanism to reach different segments of the public that may have strongly divergent interests, or in cases where more than one language is spoken within a community.

It is very important to note that, at sites where effective public involvement mechanisms are already in place, mines are encouraged to use those mechanisms to address EEM issues, rather than establish new mechanisms.

It is essential that a mine commit an appropriate level of financial and staffing resources to support the mechanisms to be implemented. If resources are not adequate, it is unlikely that the mechanisms will be effective. To facilitate public involvement, the mine may need to make some resources available to public participants in order to cover expenses associated with participation. This may be particularly important in remote areas where there may be costs associated with travel.

Mechanisms by which the public could be engaged include those described below. Note that the mechanisms identified here are not exhaustive. There are other potential mechanisms that a mine may choose to use.

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11.3.1 Ongoing Mechanisms

Public Liaison Committee

The WMI and AQUAMIN recommended that the public be involved as actively as possible, and that sharing authority on certain issues is desirable. Further, AQUAMIN recommended that Environment Canada, in consultation with other stakeholders, develop guidelines for the establishment of PLCs, including the reporting of information to the public.

It is strongly recommended that PLCs be formed to facilitate public involvement, whenever there is sufficient public interest. PLCs can help ensure that decisions regarding EEM are made in an open, transparent and inclusive manner. If a PLC is to be established, the following factors should be considered:

  1. Stakeholders should be involved as soon as possible and should participate in process design, including:
    • setting the terms of reference for the PLC;
    • determining the focus of discussion, within the scope determined by the mine operator; and
    • identifying participant funding needs, and what expenses may be covered.
  2. All stakeholders should have a clear understanding of the process, including:
    • the objective of EEM;
    • how the public is to be involved;
    • the objective of the public involvement process;
    • the scope of public involvement, and the scope of decisions to which the public has input;
    • who the final decision makers are, and the fact that decisions will be communicated to the PLC and general public, complete with reasons for the decision; and
    • the consequences of not reaching consensus.
  3. Membership in the PLC should be determined on a site-specific basis, and should include representatives of the company and the public. Membership may also include:
    • representatives of the federal government;
    • representatives of relevant provincial/territorial/Aboriginal government departments or agencies; and
    • company employees.
    Meetings of the PLC should be open to the general public, including anyone wishing either to observe or participate in a specific meeting, thus ensuring that the process remains open and transparent.
  4. Accurate, credible and timely information should be equally available to all participants.
  5. Consensus among the participants on the PLC should be the ultimate goal. In the case of consensus not being reached, the PLC would forward its findings, including full discussions of dissenting viewpoints, to the decision-making body. The decision makers would thus have a clear understanding of the situation and the different options presented, as a basis upon which to make a final decision.

Public Liaison Contact

Where there is insufficient public interest to establish a PLC, a mine may identify a member of the public to volunteer to act as a Public Liaison Contact. The Public Liaison Contact should be a person not connected with the mine, either as an employee or contractor, or as a relative of an employee or contractor. It may be difficult to identify an appropriate person to act as Public Liaison Contact, but care should be taken to try to ensure that the person identified is acceptable to the public.

The Public Liaison Contact would receive copies of EEM‑related correspondence between the mine and the Authorization Officer, and other relevant documentation such as any information prepared by the mine that is specifically intended for the public. The Public Liaison Contact would be the primary point of contact with the public for the mine, would play a role in ensuring broader distribution of relevant documentation to the public, and could assist the mine in planning and implementing short-term and/or complementary mechanisms for public involvement.

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11.3.2 Other Mechanisms

Open houses: drop-in events designed to allow the public to obtain information and respond at their convenience. Open houses may consist of a visual display, together with handouts and knowledgeable staff to answer questions and solicit opinions.

Public meetings: opportunities to inform the public and for the public to make formal and informal presentations, and to exchange comments. To be effective, public meetings need to follow an agenda. A representative of the mine or a neutral party should chair public meetings.

Workshops: carefully planned forums designed to air certain issues and share different points of view. Workshops are usually limited to a small number of invited participants. A facilitator, whose role is to encourage dialogue, structure input toward the workshop goals and summarize results, may chair the workshops.

Community visits: visits by mine staff to community groups in order to interact directly with local citizens. These provide an opportunity to interact with the public in their “domain,” meaning such visits may be more conducive to constructive informal dialogue. This may be a valuable option to consider in remote areas.

Site visits: interested participants visit a mine site to obtain first‑hand information and orientation. Such a visit provides an opportunity for direct contact and exchange of information with the public, and provides the public with an enhanced understanding of the project.

Electronic communications: Internet sites or other means for a mine operator to make information available and receive feedback. These means provide a cost-effective way to make large amounts of information available, and simplify logistics given that there is no need for building address lists, copying, and mailing out documents. However, appropriate in–house technical expertise is required. Electronic communications should not be used exclusively, because individuals without access to the necessary computer hardware and software will not be able to participate.

11.4 Public Involvement Plan

To help in the development and implementation of public involvement processes, mines are encouraged to prepare public involvement plans. The first plan should be prepared as early as possible in the EEM program, and plans should be updated periodically as the EEM program and public involvement activities at a site evolve. Mines are encouraged to provide copies of public involvement plans to the Authorization Officer. Plans provided to the Authorization Officer will be kept on file so that there is a public record of plans submitted.

The objective of the public involvement plan is to outline mechanisms by which the mine proposes to provide information on EEM to the public, seek input from the public, and respond to input from the public.

Note that as part of the public involvement plan, the mine employee who is responsible for public involvement activities should be identified.

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11.4.1 Provision of EEM Information to the Public

The timely provision of information to the public is essential to public involvement processes. As a minimum, mines should make available to the public the executive summaries and text of each public involvement plan, EEM study design and EEM interpretative report. In addition, mines are encouraged to provide to the public any other documentation that may be helpful.

The public involvement plan should include the following elements:

  1. A description of how the mine proposes to inform the public that information regarding the EEM program exists, and how the mine proposes to distribute this information to the public. Options for informing the public and distributing information include:
    • advertisements in local media, including newspapers and radio;
    • notifications on the mine website;
    • notifications to community organizations, local government, resources users and labour unions;
    • information kiosks at community centres or meeting places (e.g., shopping malls, town halls); and
    • making information available in local libraries and any other appropriate venues.
  2. A description of measures that may be taken to provide information in a form that is understandable to the public. In order to help the public understand information such as study designs, interpretative reports and other documents, consideration should be given to:
    • language(s) of the community;
    • education level of the public targeted in the communications;
    • sensitivity to appropriate cultural communication styles; and
    • acknowledging localized sensitivities in communicating with various segments of the public.

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11.4.2 Proposed Mechanisms for Public Involvement

The public involvement plan should include the following elements:

  1. A description of current conditions at the site. Such a description, with respect to the factors listed immediately below, is important in providing a context for the public involvement plan. Gathering this information may be very helpful to a mine planning public involvement activities, because it helps establish realistic expectations for those activities. The factors are:
    • degree of previous or current public involvement activities;
    • location and size of potentially affected communities;
    • age, size and history of the mining operation;
    • nature of historical or current environmental concerns; and
    • human use of aquatic resources in the watershed.
  2. Proposed objective and goals of public involvement. The overall objective of public involvement for metal mining EEM is to ensure that decisions made regarding metal mining EEM are made as a result of informed, inclusive and fair consultation with the public. Site-specific objectives and goals may be established. Clear objectives and goals will provide a basis for more effective relationships established with the public. Identifying desired results of public involvement will assist not only in the design and implementation of the public involvement plan, but in the evaluation of the effectiveness of public involvement.

    The public involvement plan should also outline the mine’s expectations for the proposed public involvement activities, and outline in a clear and transparent manner the proposed steps that may be taken in the event that expectations are not being met.
  3. Proposed scope of public involvement. Define which EEM activities the public may be involved in and which decisions may be influenced by public input. The timing of the preparation of the public involvement plan should be consistent with the proposed scope, particularly if the mine plans to involve the public in pre-EEM activities or site characterization.
  4. Defined principles for public involvement. The following are principles upon which public involvement in EEM should be based (principles appropriate to a particular site will depend on both the scope and degree of public involvement):
    • Open and transparent: Once a public involvement process has been initiated, all decisions related to the scope of the process should be completed in an open and transparent manner, so that all stakeholders involved, including the public, are aware of the decision‑making process and the nature of the decisions. Unless the process is open, fair and equitable, agreement may not be reached and, if reached, may not last.
    • Purpose-driven: Participants need to clearly understand the objectives and scope of the public involvement process, and see a clear need for their involvement. To be meaningful, public involvement processes should take place while options for decisions are still open. All stakeholders involved, including the public, need a common understanding of the objective, and an acceptance that a public involvement process is an appropriate mechanism to achieve this objective.
    • Inclusive, not exclusive: All stakeholders, including the public, should be given the opportunity to influence and participate in the process. Mines need to identify all stakeholder groups, including public groups, that have a significant interest in the outcome, including those who will be affected by the outcome, those who will be responsible for implementing it, and those who could undermine the outcome if not involved.
    • Voluntary participation: Stakeholders participate voluntarily. All stakeholders, including the public, should support the public involvement process, and will need to invest the time necessary to make it work.
    • Flexibility: Flexibility should be designed into the process. Operating within the framework of the metal mining EEM requirements and guidance, stakeholders should be able to work together to design site-specific public involvement processes. The initial process design may evolve as the stakeholders become more familiar with the issues, the process and each other. It is necessary to incorporate the feedback of participants in an ongoing evaluation of the process.
    • Equal opportunity: All stakeholders, including the public, should have equal access to relevant information, and the opportunity to participate effectively throughout the process. Whenever possible, stakeholders should have the opportunity to choose their own representatives to the process.
    • Respect for diverse interests: Acceptance of the diverse values, interests and knowledge of the stakeholders involved, including the public, is essential. The mine needs to allow time for other stakeholders to explore and develop common interests despite their different values. Increased understanding fosters trust and openness, which assists the stakeholders to move beyond bargaining over positions to exploring their underlying interests and needs.
    • Accountability: The participants, including the public, are accountable both to their constituencies and to the public involvement process that they have agreed to establish.
    • Cost efficiency: Public involvement processes should be carried out in a cost‑effective manner. At the same time, a realistic time frame should be considered to allow participants to effectively liaise, consult and exchange information with their constituencies
    • Implementation: Commitment to implementation of recommendations/decisions of public involvement activities, and feedback to the public regarding implementation, are essential elements of any agreement on public involvement. In cases where recommendations/decisions are not implemented, those involved should be informed, and a rationale should be provided.
  5. Proposed timelines. Realistic timelines are essential to public involvement in EEM. The public involvement plan should identify deadlines and milestones for key decisions that may be influenced by public involvement. Timelines should provide optimum opportunities for public involvement, while allowing the mine to meet required deadlines and milestones. Mines should be aware of the scheduling and resources constraints of the public. In scheduling public involvement activities, it may be helpful to identify the schedules and availability of the key public stakeholders first, and then the availability of other public stakeholders, where appropriate. When legislated timelines are tight, and there may not be time for adequate public involvement, this situation should be communicated to the public.
  6. Proposed degree of public involvement. Following on the recommendations of AQUAMIN and the WMI, it is recommended that the public be involved to the fullest extent possible at all mine sites. As the degree of public involvement increases, so do the expectations and need for commitment regarding:
    • the level of skill and expertise necessary for all participants;
    • resource requirements (time and money);
    • expectations that consideration be given to input throughout the EEM process; and
    • expectations that input would influence the final decisions made by the mine or governing body.
    Options for the potential degree of public involvement include the following:
    • Shared authority: The public is involved in the decision‑making process, to a degree agreed upon by all stakeholders. Within the terms of such an agreement, the public is an equal partner in the decision‑making process. The public is formally engaged through the establishment of PLCs. However, under such an arrangement, the government and regulated industry, not the PLCs, will ensure that regulatory requirements are met.
    • Joint planning: The public is engaged through ongoing consultation in all phases of EEM, from objective setting to review of results. This consultation occurs in part through PLCs, with a mandate and terms of reference agreed upon by all stakeholders. In addition, broader public consultation may occur through the use of other mechanisms. All stakeholders participating are accountable to the consultation process, and there is an obligation that mines and regulatory agencies give due consideration to the results of the process.
    • Ongoing public consultation: Public forums and/or outreach activities to local community organizations are held on an ongoing basis. The objective of these efforts is to provide regular updates (including response to input from previous forums) and to obtain regular input from the public. The scheduling and frequency of these activities are at the discretion of the mine, and there is no formal ongoing relationship with the public, although informal relationships may develop.
    • Public consultation: Through public forums and/or outreach activities targeting local community organizations, public input is sought on various EEM issues, including study design. The public also has an opportunity to review monitoring results. No ongoing working relationships with the public are established.
    • Information feedback: Information on the status of the EEM program, including monitoring results, is presented to the public at open forums or through another means. Forums provide opportunities for the public to comment.
    • Information: Information on the status of the EEM program, including monitoring results, is available to the public, but there is no formal mechanism for public input or involvement in EEM.
  7. Resources for proposed public involvement activities. It is essential that a mine ensure that adequate resources are in place to support the proposed public involvement activities. If adequate resources are not committed, even the best plans may fail. It is a mine’s prerogative to keep internal resourcing issues confidential, but a mine should provide assurances to stakeholders, including the public, that it has committed adequate resources to the proposed public involvement process.

The public involvement plan should clarify the types of financial resources that may be available to support the participation of public stakeholders, as well as the types of expenses that would be covered and to what degree and by what type of mechanism they would be covered.

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11.4.3 Proposed Mechanisms to Respond to Public Input

Essential to the public involvement plan is the proposing of mechanisms to respond to public input. Such proposals are needed to provide assurance to the public that their input will be considered. The broader the proposed scope of public involvement activities and the greater the degree of proposed involvement, the higher the public’s expectations will be that the recommendations/decisions of public involvement activities are going to be considered. Therefore, proposed mechanisms to respond to public input should be developed to a level of detail appropriate to meet the expectations of the public.

Mechanisms to respond to public input should include mechanisms for decision making based on public involvement, and mechanisms for informing the public of decisions made (including a rationale for not accepting recommendations from the public).

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