Consulting online about mining: Chain Valley Mine Welcomes Community Sentiment

Chain Valley Coal has embraced consulting online about mining activities with the communities of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.

Chain Valley is located in the Newcastle coalfield on the southern shore of Lake Macquarie, around 100 kilometres north of Sydney.  Mining commenced in 1961, and the mine currently produces around 700,000 saleable tonnes of thermal coal.

In May 2009, LakeCoal Pty Ltd applied to consolidate and replace existing approvals for the mine.  If approved, the application would allow for continued underground mining for up to the next 21 years and continued employment for about 120 employees. .

In July 2009, LakeCoal sought to extend their community reach and ensure consultation transparency by taking their community engagement online.

A project like this requires a significant amount of scientific and engineering data to be made available, and LakeCoal chose to fully utilise the various smart forum options to create a comprehensive online engagement hub.

The forum page opens direct community access to the mine’s communication team who can target specific concerns around issues such as transport, extraction methods, environmental concerns, other consultation activities and Environmental Assessment procedures.  The forum allows the team to identify and deal with any issues, rumours or misconceptions that may be circulating at an early stage.

While the forum has hosted over two and a half thousand visitors in its eighteen month period, just five visitors have felt the need to comment on the forum, posting 84 comments in total reflecting a small group within the community who are concerned about the impact of the mine. These postings have contributed to the effectiveness of Lake Coal’s newsletter distribution and helped to field other online community queries.

Across the one and a half years there has been regular and sustained interest in the consultation site with an average of six unique visitors logging into the website each day.

By uploading rich visual information, downloadable FAQs, posting a steady stream of community newsletter and updates on the “News” page, LakeCoal continues to build trust, understanding and genuine relationship with its 24/7 community.

Photo Credit: Dennis Skley

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