Advancing Together With Barrick Gold

People Australia's Super Pit mine engages community with “open door” approach

Widely known across Australia as “the Super Pit”, KCGM is an iconic gold mine that brings together 115 years of mining history in the middle of “The Golden Mile”, once reputed to be the richest square mile on earth.

The mine is adjacent to the Outback city of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, which has been sustained by the mining industry for over a century. Today, the KCGM operation is jointly owned by Barrick Gold and Newmont and is the largest open-pit gold mine in Australia.

Despite a long history of mining in the area, KCGM has no shortage of challenges when it comes to community relations. The mine and the community are literally neighbours. Subdivisions run along the mining lease boundary on the western side and a major road hugs the edge of the open pit. When your neighbour is running massive haul trucks 24 hours a day, moving 89 million tons of material per year, and blasting rock on a routine schedule, you may have to deal with some concerns.

KCGM employs an “open door” policy that encourages all community members to bring forward their issues or concerns. The mine has embraced its role as a vital member of the Kalgoorlie community, and has stationed its Community Relations team in the town itself to facilitate this open-door approach.

The hub of this activity is the Super Pit Shop, an innovative space that combines community relations activities, multi-media educational material, and tourism. Opened in 2005, the shop welcomes more than 28,000 residents and tourists every year.

“The shop is a place where everyone is welcome to learn more about KCGM, ask questions and even raise concerns,” says Holly Phillips, acting Community Relations manager. “We have a very open approach and welcome the chance to speak with community members on a regular basis.”

Because of its location adjacent to the community, KCGM fields concerns about blasting activity, noise, dust and air emissions. The mine has systems and protocols in place to minimize the impact on the community. Where problems do occur, Phillips and her team facilitate an official grievance mechanism for people who wish to escalate their concerns.

In addition to the community office, the mine also operates a 24-hour telephone hotline that local residents can use to report their concerns or ask questions.

Beyond community engagement, the Super Pit Shop is also a magnet for tourists, who come to Kalgoorlie to learn more about its gold mining history and to see the Super Pit itself. Described by one local newspaper as Kalgoorlie’s answer to the Eiffel Tower, the Super Pit is a matter of local pride.

The shop sells a variety of souvenirs, and reinvests the profits in community sponsorships and various programs, allowing the town to further benefit from tourism. Items include Super Pit merchandise, books, model CAT trucks and the company’s very own mascot – KC Bear. A popular but expensive choice is gold splatters from the mine’s processing facility, created during the gold-pouring process. The shop sells these rare Golden Mile mementoes with a certificate of authenticity.

The shop also runs a tour of the mine on the third Sunday of every month. Although just one part of its community relations approach, the Super Pit Shop is helping KCGM maintain a positive relationship with the local community, embedding the mine in the town itself.

KCGM spends more than $260 million a year with local suppliers in the Goldfields region. The mine is a significant user of local business, and 36 per cent of its suppliers have a local office in Kalgoorlie. The mine’s economic impact is huge. Every year, KCGM injects $82 million in salaries and benefits into the community, plus $22 million in taxes and royalties to government.

The Super Pit is also a residential operation, which means that 99 per cent of its employees live in the community they work in. Not only that, all staff and contractors are encouraged to participate in KCGM’s volunteer program. In 2010 alone, mine volunteers spent more than 720 hours volunteering in the Kalgoorlie area.

While maintaining economic viability is vital, the Super Pit operations need the support of the local community to reach full potential. KCGM actively employs measures to ensure that the operations are environmentally responsible and that factors such as blasting activity, noise, dust, saline water seepage and sulphur/metal emissions are carefully monitored and reduced, so as not to leave a footprint that is detrimental to both the environment and the local community.

KCGM’s goal is to continue to build a good relationship with the community through its Consider, Communicate, Contribute principles. To expand on this, the key aims are to:

  • Consider all cultural, social and heritage issues when planning any activity
  • Consider buying local first
  • Commit to employing local residents or those willing to relocate
  • Communicate openly and effectively with both employees and the community
  • Listen to the community about its concerns and expectations
  • Contribute positively through sponsorship, support and participation
  • Encourage employees through training and resources to improve community relations