Tool 5 – Dealing with Challenges of Engagement

A diverse range of challenges can arise when engaging with Indigenous Peoples. Most commonly:

  • Communities with previous negative experiences from mining projects and governments, are more likely to be hostile and suspicious
  • Unrealistic expectations from communities can lead to misunderstandings and potential conflict
  • Indigenous Peoples can feel their concerns are not properly realised, or they do not fully understand the issues involved in a mining project
  • Effort placed into initial engagement is not maintained, leading to a change of positive mood from the hosting community and a possibly breakdown of community-company relationship

Step Guide


Appoint and retain staff who are appropriately experienced, qualified and understand these challenges


Coping with negative legacies and perceptions, companies need to:

  • Show respect for the local peoples’ culture and customs
  • Use a trusted intermediary ie an indigenous community organisation, NGOs or religious group to help with initial meetings
  • Ensure people from the community meet with the company CEO and senior management
  • Acknowledge past mistakes and find opportunities to remedy past damages eg restore damaged cultural sites, fill in old drill holes or re-vegetate areas
  • Be honest about risks and benefits
  • Explain the company’s standards, processes and practices; explain how communities can be involved
  • Discover historical commitments made by previous exploration companies. Where practical, honour these commitments
  • Listen to how communities respond to the information you provide and the questions they ask. This will help prevent potential misunderstandings


Managing community expectations

  • Communicate in a clear and consistent manner
  • Do not promise jobs etc which may not develop
  • Clearly explain the stages involved in the project
  • Create a high-level consultative process to continually manage community expectations
  • Communicate regularly, even when there is not much to discuss, to avoid rumours
  • Where legally possible, clarify rumours around the project, eg timings
  • Formalise commitments in writing, or at least keep a record of promises made – documenting their progress


Communication challenges

  • Ensure company staff are aware of any language challenges, including gender-related barriers
  • Ensure the engagement team includes members who speak the local language/dialect and women
  • Ensure the engagement team is educated in local customs, etiquette and protocols for discussions with particular groups eg women, leaders, elders and youth
  • Ensure information about the project is explained in a manner that Indigenous Peoples will understand. This may involve translating materials into the local language, using brochures, maps, diagrams and local radio stations
  • Avoid using technical and legal language and writing


Maintaining engagement

  • Create an engagement plan which is reviewed and updated regularly
  • Establish systems to record compliance and the following-up of promises, is fulfilled
  • Insert engagement mechanisms into agreements
  • Implement strategies to reduce impacts from change of key staff eg succession planning and diversification of community relationship networks
  • Create arrangements for resolving disputes and grievances

Community, Economics, Environment, Ethical Business, Management, Rehabilitation

Managing Expectations

Reducing risks by effectively addressing grievances before they escalate