How do you demonstrate Broad Community Support?

During a recent workshop on IFC Performance Standards & Equator Principles I delivered in Lima, Peru, some of our discussions revolved around the concept of Broad Community Support. These conversations took us on an interesting journey making stops at recent headlines about allegation of human rights abuses in the extractive sector in Peru.

Sometimes, it is helpful to use opposites to help develop a definition.  So in some of my earlier courses , I occasionally referred to a September 2007 article in the Economist about the Rio Blanco mining project in Peru as the ‘opposite example’ when trying to explain Broad Community  Support. Rio Blanco is one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper/molybdenum mining projects. The project is being developed by Monterrico, which is a British-listed miner and now majority owned by the Chinese Zijin Consortium.

The Economist article referred to an unofficial referendum during which only 984 out of a total of 17,971 votes casts were in favor of the mine. So it seemed that the project had its work cut out to find new ways to improve its relationships with local communities and demonstrate that it had attained Broad Community Support. Presumably, the August 2007 announcement by Monterrico of an $80 million fund (over 20 year life of project) for the two neighboring communities was an important step in that direction.

More recently, the Rio Blanco project has received more negative headlines. On 18 October 2009, the Guardian, a British newspaper, carried a story entitled Abuse claims against Peru police guarding British firm Monterrico relating to incidents in 2005.  The article was accompanied by very uncomfortable pictures. And I should point out that the company is denying all allegations.  On November 1, 2009, Monterrico’s  website described violent clashes  at the Rio Blanco mining campsite facilities resulting in multiple deaths and missing staff members.

So what does constitute Broad Community Support and how do you measure it?