A Voice for the Greater Goldfields


Umwelt was engaged by Independence Group (IGO) to undertake a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and community engagement program for their Nova Nickel-Copper-Cobalt Operation located in the Goldfields region of Western Australia. 

The project

Commencing commercial production in July 2017, the Nova Operation is located in the Fraser Range of Western Australia, approximately 140km east-northeast of Norseman and 380km from Esperance. 

The purpose of Umwelt’s engagement was to undertake a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) that would inform IGO of the attitudes and concerns of host communities and key stakeholders impacted by the Nova Operation. The SIA was underpinned by IGO’s commitment and desire to adopt a shared value approach. The IGO strategic imperative focuses on community and environment to ensure: “Our communities value their relationships with us as a result of our demonstrated care and responsibility for both the community and the environment for the benefit of all.” 

How we engaged? 

Through the engagement program, approximately 300 stakeholders were consulted across the Goldfields/Esperance region. These consultations included telephone surveys and face-to-face meetings with community members, Traditional Owners, local government authorities, industry and business representatives, local service providers, IGO suppliers and corporate giving recipients. 

The engagement activities were structured to: 

  • Improve IGO’s understanding of the social impacts associated with the Nova Operation. 
  • Obtain a baseline social dataset of stakeholder perceptions of IGO’s operations. 
  • Inform and guide IGO’s future community engagement and investment planning at a local and regional level. 

A participatory approach was utilised to ensure that community stakeholders were actively involved in the assessment program, from the profiling of their communities through to identifying and predicting social impacts of concern and importance. 

The project had two distinct stages of work. Stage one involved extensive profiling of the communities of interest, including the townships of Norseman and Esperance, and the broader Shires of Dundas and Esperance. Stage two involved discussions with a range of stakeholders to validate the information obtained during profiling activities and to provide IGO with a greater insight into stakeholder views and perspectives. 

Some key social and economic statistics from the profiling activities are illustrated below: 


The results

The project enabled IGO to develop a greater understanding of the relevant social context in which their operations are based and to gauge stakeholder sentiment towards the Company and their Nova Operation. Key impacts (both positive and negative) of IGO’s operations in the community were also identified from the perspective of local stakeholders, with the data providing a baseline from which IGO can monitor and track their social licence to operate and assess improvement over time. Some examples of direct community feedback included: 

“We would love to go out there and do a stakeholder site visit to get a better understanding of their operations.” 

“They appear to be more organised and more responsible than the average miner.” 

“They need to let the community know what they’re getting involved with, how they’re contributing to the community.” 

This work has provided a foundation for IGO to build upon their existing social licence and further develop more meaningful relationships with key stakeholders within their host communities.