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Assessing the application of decision analysis in stakeholder consultation in the mining industry Thrift, Andrew

Abstract

Earning and sustaining a "social license to operate" is of critical importance to the mining industry. Aligning mining practice with societal expectations of sustainability and public participation is crucial to achieving this aim. Multi-stakeholder Structured Decision Processes based on decision analysis are promising tools for effective stakeholder consultation, but have seen very little application in the mining industry. This innovative approach involves stakeholders in collaboratively building a structured decision framework that is transparent and grounded in principles of effective decision making. This thesis assesses the effectiveness of using decision analysis in consultation by evaluating a case study consultation process regarding the optimization of a tailings management plan at the Ekati Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories, Canada. This represents the first time a decision analysis-based process has been used for project-based consultation with wide stakeholder involvement in the Canadian mining industry. The forces driving public participation and criteria for its evaluation, as well as the decision analysis approach are discussed. The case study process, involving the use of a decision analysis tool called Multiple Accounts Analysis (MAA), is evaluated from the perspective of its participants (including mining company staff) based on questionnaires and interviews using the critical incident technique. A strong majority of respondents were satisfied with the outcome of the process and an even greater majority recommended future use of MAA. Strength and weakness themes generated from inductive analysis of the data are discussed in detail. The most important strength themes are learning, engagement, facilitation and representation of values, and the most important weakness themes are unequal and insufficient participation, trust and transparency, and time constraints and time management. These themes are compared with the public participation evaluative frameworks found in the literature, which are based on government rather than corporate public participation efforts. Practical recommendations for improving the application of MAA to consultation, both at Ekati and at other mines, are given and drivers for further application of Structured Decision Processes in the mining industry are discussed.

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