Quality of Social Impact Assessment in bauxite mining sector

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Mara Lapsele
The demand for aluminium is growing and expected to continue to do so in the next decades. Traditional bauxite alumina mining, on the other hand, is recognised to have a significant environmental and social impact on local communities. As a result, it is critical to identify and manage these consequences. SIA is the most widely used tool for managing the social issues of mine-related operations, however there are doubts about its quality. As a result, a research question was established: What is the state of quality of Social Impact Assessment in the field of bauxite mining and how to improve it?
Two sub-questions are posed and answered in the study. The first sub-question was intended to look at the SIA quality in the bauxite mining industry. To address this, a conceptual framework for analysing EA reports was created. The investigation is divided into two stages. Step 1: Analyses of the overall quality of the EAs by screening six EA reports. Recognizing that quality is a holistic notion encompassing a variety of indicators, a quality evaluation based on 20 criteria was conducted.
Step 2: Three cases of varying quality were chosen for analysis of mitigation methods and public participation based on the first screening and knowledge from the literature.
The major findings of Step 1 imply that the general quality of EAs conducted for bauxite mining projects is good, as half of the reviewed reports obtained a good quality score, two received a medium quality score, and one received a poor quality score. However, the screening revealed several aspects of EAs that could be handled better, including proper stakeholder identification, identification of different social groups, description of data collection, early public involvement in project, providing evidence of actually involving the public, carrying out the scoping process, including enhancement measures, establishing grievance mechanisms, and defining clear roles and responsibilities. Step 2’s key findings point to a few distinct concerns that have an impact on EA quality. First, despite anomalies in mitigation measures compared to the mitigation hierarchy, mitigation measures were recommended in all circumstances, and the wording clearly demonstrated commitment to implementation by utilising phrases like "must/have to/will." Second, different commitments to public participation and varied timelines for engaging stakeholders exist. Nonetheless, all examples have involved some form of public input, but with varying degrees of transparency, raising doubts about the assessment’s quality and validity, or at the very least, the quality of stakeholder engagement.
Furthermore, there appears to be a link between the number of consultations and the quality of EAs. Also, the findings show that all cases informed and consulted the impacted parties, demonstrating that local knowledge and data were gathered to improve the quality of an EA. As a result, it was determined that simply informing the public is insufficient, and that aiming for a degree of public participation that includes input, such as consultations, is preferable.
Various changes were defined to answer the second sub-question of how to increase the quality of SIAs. First, the document studies show that a well-balanced report with a logical structure and a manageable size can help with the appraisal process. Second, the following actions were suggested to improve quality based on a combination of knowledge from the literature and observations from the analysis: a regulatory push by raising the minimum requirements for a SIA, paying attention to the knowledge and qualifications of the EA practitioner, ensuring that biophysical impacts are not prioritised over social impacts, and including scoping as part of the project.
To answer the second sub-question of how to improve quality of SIAs, various improvements were defined. First, based on the document studies, it can be concluded that a well balanced report with a logical structure and non-extensive size can improve the evaluation process. Second, by combining knowledge from literature and observations from analysis, following actions were suggested to improve quality: a regulatory push by increasing the minimum requirements for an SIA, paying attention to knowledge and qualifications of the EA practitioner, making sure that the biophysical impacts are not favoured over the social impacts and including scoping as a part of the project.
Finally, the study should be enhanced by looking at other quality indicators in more cases and looking into the relationship between quality and efficiency.
SpecialisationEnvironmental Management and Sustainability Science
Publication date3 Jun 2022
Number of pages51
ID: 472072768