You all know that a geologist is “a scientist who studies the solid and liquid matter that constitutes the Earth, as well as the processes and history that has shaped it” (Wikipedia, 23 June 2012). I believe, however, that those geologists working for mining or exploration companies in search of metals tend to have a greater level of responsibility than the definition suggests. The Venn diagram below illustrates the extended role a geologist plays in relation to the long-term sustainability of the company for which they work.
We’re also starting to see geology teams representing industry-best practice and award-winning innovations in the social and environmental aspects of their roles. Two examples of such initiatives were recently highlighted in the Western Australian Golden Gecko Awards in 2010, which were awarded to Crosslands Resources Ltd and Pluton Resources Ltd, both for exploration-related initiatives.
Crosslands Resources Ltd (CRL) intended to explore an area where the most northerly population of a conservation significant spider species existed. It was thought that the vibration from the drill rigs would impact the spiders and, therefore, a 200m exclusion buffer was placed around each burrow. This stopped the planned drilling program. CRL partnered with Phoenix Environmental to develop a research program that demonstrated vibration would not impact the spiders. Exclusions buffers were reduced and the drilling program commenced. The exploration teams were more familiar with the spider population than the consultants, put up signage, reduced speed limits, educated and monitored drilling contractors, and basically ensured that the spiders were protected.
Pluton Resources intended to explore Irvine Island, which is of significant importance to the traditional owners, the Mayala people. A close partnership with the Mayala people was formed with the company respecting the traditional owner’s wishes of ensuring very low environmental impact throughout the exploration program. As a result, a helicopter was used to transport “low impact” drill rigs to various locations on the island (resulting in no ground disturbance for tracks or pads). In addition, accommodation pods (originally designed by NASA) were positioned at the camp site resulting in minimal ground disturbance.
Both companies, through their geology teams, demonstrated to their stakeholders that it would engage them throughout the decision-making process and would genuinely address their concerns. And both companies turned what was originally considered a risk to the company into an opportunity that has earned them not only the ability to progress their respective projects, but also an excellent reputation within the industry and stakeholders. This is a fantastic outcome!!!
My question to the readers of this Blog is:
Do you know of other examples where geologists have played a key role in demonstrating excellence or industry best-practice in the social and/or environmental aspects of their jobs?
If so, I’d be keen to hear their stories.
Note: This Blog has also been published as a Guest Blog on GeoEpok.