Case Study Pages:
Relationship building in Australia
Australia: Relationship building.
Key focus - Employee Relations and supply in action
Imagine - farms that grow crops such as wheat and oats, a few have sheep and cattle but in all there are only about 100 people. Located near beautiful coastline with a diversity of plants and native animals and birds, life is peaceful... and along comes a large mining company with a proposal to mine nickel for the next 25 years. What do locals do - embrace the change? A challenge for BHP Billiton has been to develop a mining operation within this community of farmers, retirees and summer tourists, who are naturally protective of their rural and regional lifestyle.
Since 2002, BHP Billiton has been addressing the local socio-economic issues that will arise from the construction of a new mine and processing plant close to the towns of Ravensthorpe, Hopetoun and Esperance in Western Australia.
With its Sustainable Development Policy firmly at the forefront, BHP Billiton engaged regularly, openly and honestly with people who will be affected by its operations. The company has undertaken numerous programs in order to build positive relationships with the small regional communities.
Locally-based workforce - BHP Billiton estimates 300 people will be directly employed and, given the life of the mine is expected to be 25 years, a locally-based workforce is preferred. This is in contrast to the operation of a number of mines in which workers are not local and instead fly in and out, as required.
BHP Billiton has encouraged local and regional businesses to participate in the construction phase. Three business chambers are working with the company to help members adapt their businesses to the long-term needs of the company.
In all there will be more jobs, greater potential for local businesses and greater opportunities for young people.
Community consultation and involvement - BHP Billiton has established two local committees to assist community participation in the decision-making process. The Community Liaison Committee (CLC) helps to reduce potential tensions as many new families move into a small community that has changed little for decades. The CLC also looks at sponsorship applications from the local community and makes recommendations on how the company should allocate these funds.
The second committee is the Jerdacuttup Ravensthorpe Nickel Operations Working Group (JRWG). It ensures that no social or environmental harm occurs as a result of the project's operations with emphasis given to air quality, farm values and groundwater, soil and vegetation programs. Members of the committee include seven farmers and a Jerdacuttup primary school representative. The JRWG has undertaken a number of studies including work relating to surface water flow predictions, soil and vegetation programs and tailings storage.
BHP Billiton is not going it alone. It is working with the local community and state and federal governments to maximise opportunities for the local community. BHP Billiton's socio-economic sustainability aims as indicated by the strands of employee relations and supply are self evident; in addition the economic contribution will result in long-term sustainability for the local community.