CSIRO initiative helps mining build social licence

CSIRO has launched the Voconiq business to help companies tackle the issue of achieving a social licence to operate, one of the top risks facing industry today.

Voconiq, which captures real-time insights into community sentiment across time and locations, aims to help industries and communities build greater trust and mutually-beneficial outcomes.

CSIRO mineral resources director Jonathan Law said: “Our social insights capability has grown strong market demand from customers including BHP, Rio Tinto and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, so we were able to spin out Voconiq, creating a new Australian company poised for international growth.

“Businesses will be able to draw on CSIRO-developed science through Voconiq, who can grow their service to benefit more communities, the resources sector and any other industry where community trust is essential to their business.”

CSIRO research shows that a social licence to operate is influenced by trust between companies and the communities they work in.

If trust is lost, consequences from conflict equate to hundreds of millions of dollars in delays or the complete abandonment of a project.

Voconiq operates in key Australian mining regions, including the Pilbara, Western Australia and the Hunter Valley, New South Wales.

The company uses a clear framework of community engagement, community surveys, data collection, analysis and reporting that companies can proactively respond to.

Voconiq chief executive Kieren Moffat said the service allowed companies to work with communities in a long term and constructive way.

“Our service enables companies to systematically understand the complex sets of issues and concerns held by communities, while providing communities with a constructive way to have a voice and influence company decision-making,” Moffat said.

In its first year, Voconiq will serve its current portfolio of clients, including Newmont Goldcorp, AgriFutures Australia and LiveCorp.

It has long-term plans to expand into the infrastructure and oil and gas industries and to provide its services to communities directly.

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