Spotlight on social issues

THE seemingly lesser acknowledged division of sustainable development's triple bottom line of economy, environment and society has been thrust into the spotlight in a bid to gather research and compile information resources for mining companies.
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Staff Reporter

The social aspects of the mining industry - that is, how companies interact with the community - have formed the basis of a report compiled by the CSIRO and recently presented at the New South Wales Minerals Council Environment and Community Conference.

Presenter Dr Fiona Solomon told about 250 delegates at the conference that CSIRO researchers had trawled through literature and undertaken a series of workshops with social researchers, industry specialists and stakeholders, in a bid to compile a detailed look at social activity, issues and trends in the past five years and identify future opportunities for the mining industry.

Solomon said the workshops, held in Brisbane and Perth, had uncovered several areas of concern including gender, workplace cultures, working arrangements and the role of government. She said most attendees thought there was an under-investment in social research and practice within the industry.

The literature review exposed other areas of interest including native title and agreements, community engagement, labour relations and governance as being of priority.

The information collected was then combined and compared to expose gaps in research and practice where more focus is needed by the industry.

These include the fields of social performance, minesite functional roles, industry work and working conditions, women and the mining industry, Indigenous employment and agreement making, public participatory processes and community and regional development.

Solomon said the key findings of the study fell into two areas: labour issues and regional, interdisciplinary and integration issues, which are generally the fields that attract investment calls for research and development.

She told the conference there had been significant changes in the mining industry social realm and it is expected that those changes will continue to evolve for the next five years as companies adapt strategies to manage change and invest funds in social research.

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