South Deep has been conducting relational assessments with its neighbouring communities since 2014 as part of its commitment to effective community engagement. These are studies that pose a number of questions to gain insight into how community members perceive South Deep and vice versa, according to various aspects of the mine / host community relationship. The questions highlight the quality of the relationship according to four indicators: legitimacy; compatibility of interests; respect; and trust.
The first such assessment in 2014/15 showed that the way South Deep and the communities perceived their relationship was very different. In two communities, the perception of the quality of the relationship differed by up to 30%. The assessment tools provided some insight into where the discrepancies were in terms of the perceived quality of the relationship and gave South Deep guidelines for improvement.
With this new insight, South Deep was able to have a broader discussion with its internal stakeholders, to take ownership of the relationship deficiencies, and this led to three important changes:
The South Deep board and top management resolved to invest in strengthening community relations and making the necessary changes at the operational level, plus overseeing the implementation of a response plan.
Establishing a Community Relations department, ensuring a direct relationship between the mine and the community. Plans were put in place to provide the members of the department with the necessary skills.
Creating new and transparent ways for the community to air grievances and raise concerns, including structured monthly engagements.
When the next relational assessment was conducted in 2016/17, it was decided to apply a more in-depth assessment tool that would allow for a deeper look at different aspects of the relationship, including how perceptions varied across demographics like age and gender.
Following the 2016/17 assessment, a further six changes were made at South Deep:
Broadenings options for engagement through open days, round tables and forums that allowed people to speak one-on-one with representatives of specific mine functions.
Addressing issues of perceived transparency and disclosure, by documenting concerns raised and courses of action proposed and sharing these with the community after each engagement.
Adopting role of convenor, engaging on the community's behalf with police, civil society and local government, in particular to find ways to address the high incidences of crime in the community.
Sensitising functional business areas to community engagement, by the Community Relations team being a custodian of practices and standards guiding interactions and introducing a module on community relations to the mine's induction training.
Including metrics for improvement in community relations in the mine's key performance indicators, extending to areas such as procurement and recruitment.
Considering assessment outcomes when allocating community investment funding, to ensure priority areas received the necessary attention.
Following the latest relational assessment, the company is developing plans to address the following factors:
Promoting a better understanding by communities of their rights in general, and in relation to mining in particular.
Building greater empathy between mine employees and the community
Fostering greater trust and respect by showing the community how their input affects the Mine's decision-making.
Continuing to grow the relationship between the communities and local government.
By responding to the knowledge we have gained by formally assessing our relationship with our host communities, we are on a journey of improvement that has seen community support grow by 19% between 2014/15 and 2016/17, and by a further 10% between 2016/17 and 2019. The current (2020) assessment is under way and will take into consideration the notable impact of COVID-19 on our communities. These assessment results will be shared in due course.