In November 2010, the development of Australia’s most significant gold discovery for more than a decade, the Tropicana Gold Project, was approved by the boards of AngloGold Ashanti (70% and manager) and its joint venture partner Independence Group NL (30%).
At the same time the project, located 330 kilometres eastnortheast of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, received federal and government environmental approval after a rigorous Public Environmental Review process.
The Tropicana Gold Project (TGP) is unique, both in terms of its remote location on the edge of the Great Victoria Desert and the surrounding environment, which has seen minimal human activity. From the start of exploration in the region in 2002, AngloGold Ashanti recognised that, unlike the established mining areas of Westerb Australia, a limited amount of environmental or heritage information was available and that it was vital to carry out extensive baseline flora and fauna and heritage surveys.
At the same time the company commenced engaged activities with key stakeholders to ensure its approach was understood and to engender cooperative long-term relationships.
Tropicana Manager: Environment & Approvals, Belinda Bastow, said early stakeholder engagement was important in achieving broad community support throughout the exploration, feasibility and development phases of new mining projects. “Our initial engagement established communication lines with local government, relevant government departments and indigenous communities,” she added concluding that, “As exploration advanced, we expanded these activities to include special interest groups in the fields of conservation and preservation, along with decision-making government authorities.”
This process involved a broad spectrum of communication techniques including proactively seeking out stakeholders, listening to their views, in some cases involving them in surveys and responding to their inputs.
In a pioneering move, the TGP also established a Peer Review Panel comprising independent specialists who advised on survey methodology, report content, impact management strategies and interpreting community feedback.
John Millikan, Exploration Services Manager, explained that the region’s traditional owners were intimately involved in heritage surveys from the beginning.
He added that regular briefing sessions for the indigenous community are a critical part of the engagement process as the TGP has advanced, evolving over the years from focusing on exploration information to providing information about business and employment opportunities at the mine.