sharing in governance of extractive industries

How can technology support a human-centered mine of the future?

The contributions from GOXI members on "New Tech, New Deal"have highlighted new technologies’ disruptive effects on the governance of extractives -from employment and local content to fiscal instruments and local economic development. The 4th industrial revolution is fueling the future of mining and challenging traditional paradigms of resource development and local development in ways that can undermine worker and community ‘voices’. At the same time, over two-thirds of the world population owns a mobile phone -offering new opportunities to connect communities and listen to workers across global extractives supply chains.

As we discuss the impact potential of new technologies for the mining sector, we should consider the opportunities presented by information and communication technologies aka ICT, in particular their applications to:

(1) help enforce international regulations such as Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and national legislation around consultation and participation of communities in natural resource development; and

(2) mitigate some of the adverse risks (e.g. reduced local employment) to help manage community-company relations and;

(3) create new opportunities for more inclusive dialogues between stakeholders to create shared value.

While FPIC has been endorsed as a pre-requisite for investment by various financial institutions and integrated by companies into their policies and strategies, implementation has been inconsistent. The ubiquity of mobile phones provides a potential tool for creating more systematic and inclusive processes. They offer more inclusive and safe community and worker feedback channels that can create a data-driven and continuous approach to community engagement and the social license to operate. Various companies have developed mobile-based mechanisms to create more effective dialogue with communities. These experiences offer important lessons regarding the importance of ‘closing the feedback loop’ with community members to create meaningful dialogue. Can technology reach the more vulnerable segments of society and help overcome some of the practical operational challenges of FPIC and other standards? What lessons can we learn from practical examples of data-driven approaches to the social license to operate and ICT-based community engagement?

Other technologies such as the use of drones to increase safety or satellite imagery for environmental impact monitoring -particularly around water management- and to triangulate citizen-generated data with other datasets. The ability to access and use data still faces significant barriers (cost, capacity) that can undermine its potential to support participatory monitoring. An analysis of participatory water monitoring programs also stresses the critical role of institutions and trust to create successful and sustainable partnerships between companies, governments and communities. How to ensure greater access and impact of advanced technologies to foster data-driven dialogue between stakeholders?

Creating shared value under this new paradigm requires going beyond risk to identify concrete opportunities to serve community needs and to monitor impacts. New technology offers possible tools to ensure communities play a more important role in the local development process from design to monitoring. The conditions for such feedback to become a meaningful driver for development cannot be reduced to a simple technology fix. Building capacity to deliberate on alternative local investment options and turning feedback into agency involve a more complex set governance factors. What are the good practices and key lessons from participatory approaches to community investment design and monitoring?

We look forward to a lively and practical discussions to help ensure community needs remain at the center of the mine of the future!

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Comment by Perrine Toledano on June 15, 2019 at 11:45

Thank you all for your rich contributions to this discussion on how new technologies might be used for, and impact community consultation processes. When so far the new tech new deal conversation has been on anticipating and mitigating the negative impacts of tech on communities’ traditional economic benefits (ie: direct/ indirect employment), this week’s discussion has turned to the positive externalities of the use of tech, in particular smart mobile phones and satellite imagery, in community engagement. This discussion, to be continued in other channels, is of utmost importance given both 1) the negative perception of tech which might increase early community opposition to projects, 2) the slow progress in the implementation of sound FPIC and (genuine engagement process) in project impacted - communities.

With my colleague Tehtena, specialist of FPIC process, we are summarizing this week’s discussion below, lifting some very well-put Goxian language from the posts:

Different stakeholders may have different motivations for engaging in community consultations. From a rights-based perspective, genuine community consultations are critical to ensure that those most impacted by extractive projects have the opportunity to influence decision-making that may affect their rights. This discussion has largely focused on how the use of new technologies might be used to increase community access to information about a project and its potential impacts so that communities are able to make decisions and contribute to dialogue in an informed manner; and facilitate ongoing dialogue so to augment a community’s ability to influence decision making on an ongoing basis.

There was consensus that any new technologies that could potentially either increase access to information, or facilitate dialogue are clearly not a silver bullet to solve all challenges that often arise in consultation processes, but are merely tools that may be used, where appropriate:

- as conduits for data collection about community views and perspectives to potentially increase the efficiency of some aspects of consultations;

- as improving data collection on livelihood conditions of communities, to understand better their everyday challenges (eg: access to water, roads, power, sanitation, climate change impact etc..

- to foster improved dialogue and close feedback loops;

- to help to identify and monitor social and environmental risks;

- to increase the community’s ability to access information about a project;

 - to increase the community’s comparative knowledge about how other communities have been impacted by extractive projects or negotiating better benefit sharing and involvement in decision making with investors.


Some of the challenges that were identified include:

i) the potential that while technology can be an amplifier of voice and accelerator for data gathering, it may also magnify other all-too-human dynamics, such as imbalances of power, or fuel divisions within society, acknowledging that the penetration of new technologies may remain inaccessible to the most vulnerable in society.

ii) new technologies to facilitate dialogue cannot substitute the trust-building component (on both sides of the conversation) that is critical to consultation processes, and which requires empathetic partnership and human connection ahead of the extractive project development

iii) Information accessed by communities may sometimes be unreliable.

It is of utmost importance for all of us to be aware of these challenges to use technologies astutely and avoid taking the risk of replacing one problem with another one when we are faced with an institutional moment to finally get policies around FPIC and community engagement right.   

Thank you again very much to the Goxian community for sharing our conversation on the new tech new deal over the past 5 years.  We remain available to continue the conversation beyond this online forum.

Comment by Jed Miller on June 13, 2019 at 16:49

Hi Antoine, Perrine and GOXIans,

I appreciate Jodi's point about the realities of power and the limitations of spaces convened by anyone other than impacted communities themselves. Technology can be an amplifier of voice and accelerator for data gathering, but it can also magnify other all-too-human dynamics, such as imbalances of power or the appeal of "fake news" (as Antoine mentioned).

Technology can help drive new paradigms and raise up marginalized voices as long as other realities are also considered. (It's "merely a tool," as Antoine said.) More than a decade into the "data revolution," institutions still take a tech-first approach and ignore on the ground realities.

Perrine's colleagues at CCSI have recently published a Guide for communities on combining technology like OpenLandContracts.org with local meetings and legal training to turn land contract data into a tool for accountability. And speaking of Namati, the MobLab blog has a recent story about how Namati supported a Sierra Leone community to hold a international operator to account (in this case over palm oil).   

I am curious if Jodi and others have more links that offer examples of "bottom-up" uses of tech that enable communities to engage with information, companies and officials in a way that empowers. 

Comment by Antoine Heuty on June 13, 2019 at 2:08

Thanks for your comments Jodi!  Your contribution provides an important reminder that community or worker feedback is different from community"voice". Irrespective of its level of sophistication, technology is merely a tool organizations and institutions can appropriate to develop better dialogue and foster agency amongst community members. In other words, technology offers (a) a feedback channel and (b) results in the production of community-generated data- which can be instrumental in improving development outcomes. However, governments, industry and civil society need to appropriate these mechanisms and datasets to create positive change and/or mitigate negative impacts.

Despite being much less accessible-particularly in rural areas- social media offers a major source of information and a potential lever for social and economic empowerment as you note. The recent backlash against some of the social media platform also calls for a careful appraisal of their ability to foster an inclusive dialogue vs. fuel divisions within society. A question is how ICT can provide useful information to level the playing field within communities and between stakeholders and how sources of data and information (community generated, machine sensed etc...) can be accessed and used to create more constructive multi-stakeholder engagements. 

We look forward to getting industry, government and local civil society perspectives' and feedback!

Comment by Perrine Toledano on June 12, 2019 at 20:54

Hi Jodi

Thank you for enlarging the scope of the discussion and for giving us further inspiration.

I think between the emergence of tech and how it makes it way to communities (whether through mobile phones,  through social media or through google search to access comparative information) AND the boiling pot created by the negative perception of automation impact on employment opportunities, we have an institutional moment for FPIC and other genuine engagement process  that we need to think through.  This institutional moment makes it very urgent to solve the FPIC question because tech might provide us with the tools to actually apprehend this more adequately and if we do not change current practices community opposition will just rise and this uprising might also be enabled by tech (ie: social media that Jodi is mentioning!). Question therefore is what is wrong about FPIC implementation, is there any aspect that tech can help address, what are the aspects that shouldn't be addressed by tech and where tech could actually do more harm than good (eg: doing a mobile survey when there is a need for long humane interaction)?   I'd love to hear from Goxian practitioners on this.

Comment by Jodi Liss on June 12, 2019 at 14:11

I would like to weigh in with this issue. First, it's great that companies can now use mobile phones to monitor community satisfaction and monitor FPIC. But there is a limit to what this means in the broader picture. One problem with this approach (or at least how it is presented here) is thinking that the people in the community  will be perfectly happy if they have a high-tech mobile way of expressing their concerns and displeasure. While this may be true to some degree, it is not a substitute for the presence of and ongoing, empathetic partnership with actual company people. No one should suggest taking the human connection out of this equation. Or its difficulty.

Second, I would like to suggest that focusing this discussion on mobile phones when it comes to tech and engagement, empowerment, and inclusion limits itself to a very small perspective on how new technology impacts community engagement.

There is far greater impact in many communities (and for companies) from their own creative use of social media and similar methods of accessing information and connection. People in communities may not all have easy access to smartphones or computer, but someone in their midst will have, at least sometimes, access to  Facebook, the web and other forms of connectivity. They will use this. Everyone does this. Even people in rural communities who are illiterate themselves will work with (literate) people in their own community rather than trust outsiders.

Often they seek connection with similar communities or from another community which may have answers as they seek to independently control their own knowledge base and build capacity. This is hugely important. Having talked to many in the extractives industries, I can say this is a huge issue for companies and governments. As communities seek more information to make better and more productive agreements and arrangements, they come across information that empowers them in ways beyond surveys. Some of it may give them pause as they encounter legitimate (and sometimes false) new information which affects their perspective of the project. Some of it is from other communities, learning about what is possible and what to avoid. Some of it is from CSOs about financial information. Some of it is about the possibilities of benefits and better local content. But ALL of this has enormous impact on how communities deal with projects in their midst and how they interact with companies and the future of extractive industries. This is an issue that must also be discussed.

A concern with this series is the idea that these things can be controlled with just a little more or a little bit better technology. Companies can improve their project with better, more efficient, more environmentally safe processes. Governments can be more transparent and offer greater benefits to country and communities. But normal people will come up with innovative ways to address their concerns --- using low and/or high tech. Smart phones are only another tool in the toolkit.

It's also a problem that we have heard so little from people in the industry or government, which would add immeasurably to the discussion.

Comment by Vera Belazelkoska on June 12, 2019 at 7:21

Great questions and examples below! When implemented thoughtfully and adapted to the local context, digital tools can be great conduits for effective data collection and information sharing, especially in remote regions with low internet accessibility and connectivity. In our work, we have leveraged technology in diverse contexts. In Brazil, South Africa, Chile and Peru - in collaboration with AngloAmerican - the Ulula platform is capturing community perceptions data on key social, environmental and trust indicators via monthly multilingual IVR and SMS surveys. Local social performance teams leverage this data to identify risks proactively. In eastern Congo mobile surveys were used in a research effort to better understand the impact of due diligence programmes on social, environmental and human rights indicators in line with the OECD guidelines on responsible supply chains (see more on the findings here). 

And rather than limiting mobile connectivity for data collection only, it's pertinent to consider how tech can support follow-up to close the feedback loop with communities, as well as to share relevant targeted information with key stakeholders who can benefit from it. In Peru, Ulula worked with AGC to launch an automated SMS Chatbot that enabled ASM to inquire on the price of gold and current exchange rate - messages that were coupled with health and safety tips related to mercury use (see this Financial Times article). Tech can be a pretty effective sidekick in initiatives that go beyond risk and rather toward effective, frequent and accessible consultation with communities impacted by extractives.

Comment by Antoine Heuty on June 12, 2019 at 0:51

Thanks for your comments Tehtena and Perrine!


According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) 95 percent of the world population lives in areas with mobile coverage (at least 2G). While basic coverage is extensive, there are important limitations that are hindering further progress-notably in rural areas. According to GSMA, 800 million people are still not covered by mobile broadband networks (3G and 4G) and 3.2 billion have access to broadband but are not using internet mobile services. In addition, the persistent mobile gender gap also represents an important barrier to full inclusion and participation of vulnerable populations into consultative and decision-making processes.


Mobile phones alone have limited capabilities for water monitoring. However smartphones can play a useful role for geolocation, data sharing and analysis in combination with other sensors (some examples here).



Comment by Tehtena Mebratu-Tsegaye on June 11, 2019 at 23:06

Thanks, Antoine and Perrine for this thought-provoking framing. It made me think of a few examples of how technology and data have been used to support both consultation processes and monitoring of company operations. Some of the examples relate to different types of natural resource projects but could be useful for the extractives context.

The first, CSIRO Reflexivity, involves regular and broad-based data collection and analysis to help companies to understand community priorities and concerns an ongoing basis, as part of a company's engagement process.

The second is the mobile app This is My Backyard (TIMBY). TIMBY has been used in Liberia and elsewhere to facilitate data collection, information sharing, and reporting on environmental issues related to forestry and extractives projects.

And the third is the Early Warning System that was (or perhaps still is) managed by SDI and Namati, through which communities are able to call a hotline to seek legal advice and support on interactions with investors seeking access to land.

Interested if anyone here has any other examples to share or insights on the benefits or challenges associated with any of the examples flagged above.

One broad challenge to consider in the context of community consultations is how issues of inclusivity or barriers to participation might be addressed in cases where the introduction of new technologies might have the unintended effect of exacerbating existing power dynamics.

Comment by Perrine Toledano on June 11, 2019 at 9:43

Thank you Antoine for laying out how the technology can positively impact the shared value paradigm when so far what has been discussed was more on the negative side (ie: reduction of local content opportunities). I would be very eager to hear how the penetration of cell phones in relative remote and poor areas really change the access to data and information.

Are the cell phones really accessible to all even in the marginal fringes or does it create a new of inequality within the community,

How can the information communicated on cell phone be easy enough to enable action such as water monitoring?

Should mines now partner with cell-phone companies, app- content provider companies to make this cell phone really revolutionary for deep engagement at mine sites?   To what extent cell phones can play a role when it comes to the timing of the engagement which is at the core of the FPIC question? 


           GOXI Partners


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