Case Study: Community Monitoring Program Builds Trust in Paracatu
Kinross’ Paracatu mine is one of the world’s largest, long-life gold operations, processing an impressive 56 million tonnes of ore a year. Unlike many mines that are located in remote areas far from urban centres, it borders the bustling Brazilian city of Paracatu, a historic mining town with a population of 84,000.
Since Kinross became the operator of the Paracatu mine in 2004, we have worked to establish two-way dialogue with the neighbouring community. That dialogue became even more important with the launch of a multi-year expansion project, completed in 2012, that tripled the mine’s production. Unlike previous mining of “soft” ore near the surface, the expansion accesses much harder ore which requires explosives to break it up so that it can be hauled by truck to the crusher.
To minimize the effects of the blasting on the neighbouring community, Kinross has taken a number of measures, including using the most technologically advanced electronic explosives available, reducing the amount of explosives used in each hole and packing more material on top of the explosives to limit the escape of noise energy. As a result, the air pressure vibration level generated by a blast averages below 2 millimetres per second,which is far below the maximum 15 millimetres permissible by law in Brazil.
These technical solutions are one part of our management approach. In addition, Paracatu’s management has established a comprehensive community outreach program that includes two key elements; the first is a community monitoring program that invites community members to participate in the daily monitoring of the ore blasting to ensure the Company is meeting its regulatory commitments in terms of noise and vibration levels. Volunteer participants are given training in how to read the monitoring equipment, briefed on what the regulatory requirements are and are brought to see a live blast.
Each day at 3 p.m., community members gather around the monitoring equipment set up in the neighbourhoods closest to the mine and record the air pressure vibration levels generated by the 1.5-second blast. The Company maintains video and noise records for every blast, in order to review and improve operational performance if necessary.
The second key element was the introduction of a 24-hour telephone hotline, which allows the Company to respond immediately to community complaints. When a call is received, the area supervisor is informed, a team is dispatched to the caller’s home to identify the source of the concern and the disruptive work is stopped and redirected to another sector of the mine. This constant communication and interaction has helped Paracatu anticipate potential issues ahead of time and integrate community priorities into the mine plan. As a result, the number of complaints has decreased significantly, from 121 in 2012 to 73 in 2013.
It is not often that one’s neighbour is a large, industrial operation, and it’s certainly not always easy living in close proximity to a mine. But constant, responsive, two-way dialogue has notably strengthened the relationship between the community and the Company, which is, and will continue to be, Paracatu’s most important metric for success.