Seabridge Gold Environmental Assessment Application
Communications for Federal-Provincial Comprehensive Environmental Review
A $5 billion mining project needed to ensure it received its environmental approval from the provincial and federal governments. Our analysis identified the following risks:
- Community perception that the project was facing insurmountable environmental challenges.
- Opposition galvanizing over concerns expressed by the public.
- Communities and organizations become alienated over the lack of progress on jobs, skills training and contracting.
PRA was asked to develop and execute a long-term communications plan to engage with all stakeholders – local communities, indigenous groups, government, NGOs and industry – in support of its EA application process.
The main goal was to positively influence target audience perceptions by providing scientific and fact-based information in easy to understand way.
We began the project by designing and executing a statistically valid perception audit used to understand stakeholders’ level of acceptance and perceptions of the project.
We then led a stakeholder mapping exercise with key senior member of the Project team to further understand stakeholders.
Using the perception audit and stakeholder mapping results, we created a communication strategy which included specific targeted audiences, and all areas of strategic communications: Aboriginal relations, government relations, community relations, issues management, media relations, social media, online and digital communications, crisis communications planning, and advertising.
Comprehensive community engagement builds project support
Seabridge Gold needed public support to ensure its Copper-Gold project received an environmental assessment certificate from the provincial government and approval from the federal government – and equally important – that it establishes a mutually beneficial relationship with the community for the ensuing 50+ years. Under the environmental assessment (EA) process, companies are required to undertake community engagement to inform the public about the project, the opportunities and potential impacts it will bring, and enable them to provide feedback and ask questions. However, going beyond the basic level of community engagement is viewed more favourably by the government and is plays an important role earning the social licence to operate, which has become essential for resource development companies.
Traditionally, the objective of community engagement has been to meet the regulatory body’s requirement for public consultation. Activities revolved around providing information to the public by means of printed materials and some workshop/open house type events. Recently however, there has been a shift towards “community involvement” – developing relationships with those people who live and work closest to an industrial development project as a way to build trust in the company and faith in the project.
Developing trusting relationships with community members requires proactive, sustained, open, honest, and transparent communication
PRA was engaged by Seabridge Gold to develop a long-term community engagement plan to engage with all stakeholders – First Nations, governments and local communities – in support of its EA application process. PRA worked with Seabridge over six years to carry out a range of initiatives, including: create a dedicated project website to house information; develop project information materials, handouts, fact sheets, videos and posters for community information meetings; and develop monthly advertorials for the local newspapers to provide updates on project work, the EA process progress and efforts to give back to the community through sponsorship and support of local service providers. PRA also worked with Seabridge to set up and provide support at community information sessions. In addition, PRA undertook targeted media engagement to share news about the projects developments in the EA process and the company’s sponsorships and contributions to support local communities.
Approval rating from the stakeholders
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