"Mining companies should engage with local communities as early as possible and promote dialogue regarding the community’s long term vision and how a mining project could support this vision - in other words, involve the stakeholders in project planning instead of trying to impose the project."
How have mining processes been adapted to place a greater emphasis on worker health and wellbeing instead of just injury prevention?
Most mining companies have generally done a good job in terms of managing occupational health; however, the Pandemic was a real wake up call to the entire industry, and we noticed a much greater demand for our occupational health expertise and services. For example, in pre-pandemic times, it was relatively easy to schedule workers on different turnarounds and shifts. The Pandemic brought about a sharpened focus on all aspects related to the movement of employees; not just at mine sites, but also while workers are at home with their families. Remote work has also advanced, such as mine dispatch centers from home offices, and I believe this trend will continue even when the virus is under control. All of this has resulted in a heighted awareness within the industry on the need for a more proactive and comprehensive approach to occupational health and the value that such programs can add to a mining operation, not only in terms of risk management and cost savings, but in maintaining and retaining an engaged, healthy and motivated workforce.
What advice would you give to companies in Peru regarding social bottlenecks and permitting?
The number one priority in terms of managing the social aspects related to mining is effective communications with stakeholders. Mining companies should engage with local communities as early as possible and promote dialogue regarding the community’s long term vision and how a mining project could support this vision - in other words, involve the stakeholders in project planning instead of trying to impose the project. At the end of the day, the communities and governments have the final say, and without their approval you will not be able to start operations even if you have permits, as we have seen in the cases of Minas Conga, Tambo Grande and most recently, Tía María. A sense of buy-in and support from local stakeholders will come if they can see the economic benefits of the project, and if it is clear that the project will not negatively impact the environment.
Exploration and mine permitting in Peru present a similar challenge that also requires proactive communications; conversations with the regulators should be started early and intentions outlined clearly. Permit applications should be prepared professionally and the project proponents should be willing to meet with the regulatory authorities and communities so they fully understand the project. It is important to have realistic expectations regarding the permitting timeline, as the permitting process can be bureaucratic, complicated and highly unpredictable, and in addition, the process has been further complicated by the Pandemic.
What would you say differentiates Santa Barbara Consultants from some of the bigger mining consultancies?
Santa Barbara Consultants is a team of “miners helping miners”. A majority of our team has worked for mining companies and have grown into the consulting space. This gives us practical expertise related to both mining operations and projects, in addition to hands on technical experience in managing the challenges faced by mining companies in Latin America.
How are you planning on growing the company in the coming years, and which areas of the business do you see as having good potential for growth?
Santa Barbara Consultants is always looking for new talent, especially for professionals that have hands on experience in mining projects and operations. We are very selective concerning the people we choose, not only from the point of view of qualifications and experience, but also finding people that match our values and fit with our culture.
The management of environmental, health, safety, social and technical aspects within the mining industry is growing beyond just compliance and economics, and issues such as carbon footprint reduction, climate change and renewable energy sources must be evaluated and factored into the life of mine plans, and integrating the mine with the needs of local communities. We believe that these areas offer tremendous opportunities for growth in the coming years, supported by the robust outlook for metals usage in the green economy.