Identifying and working with external stakeholders

Tommi Kauppila, Geological Survey of Finland, PO Box 1237, 70211 Kuopio, Finland; tommi.kauppila(at)

Stakeholder Analysis is a process that aims to identify individuals, groups, and organizations who, or whose interests, will be affected by the mine closure or who could have an influence on the closure project. The Analysis further examines the importance of the identified stakeholders on the project outcome and finally outlines a plan for stakeholder participation. A wealth of literature exists on various stakeholder analysis and engagement methods and good practices in natural resources management. These are often tailored for the developing countries but the main principles work well in industrialized countries as well. En example of these is the IFC guide: Stakeholder Engagement – A Good Practice Handbook for Companies Doing Business in Emerging Markets (IFC 2007). Some resources also are available that have been developed specifically for the extractive industries. These and other guidelines have been listed in Shift (2013): Discusion Paper – Stakeholder Engagment and the Extractive Industry Under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. This section briefly outlines some of the main principles of stakeholder engagement and management but the reader is referred to additional literature for more detailed discussions.

Stakeholder identification and analysis

As mines to be closed usually have operated in the location for several years, often decades, the operators are usually well aware of who their key stakeholders are. In addition, they have a local work force that has a great deal of knowledge of local conditions, stakeholders, their legitimate representatives, power relations, vulnerable groups etc. With mines of relatively short periods of operation, results from earlier stakeholder analyses may still be appropriate. However, it is advisable to revisit these analyses and to look at them from the mine closure point of view. In particular, the economic aspects of mine closure warrant attention as the conditions differ from those at the start of the mine. Stakeholder analysis-based engagement is also important as mine closure and post closure land use are planned when a new mine is to be opened. In such cases, mine closure and the post-closure situation is included as a topic in the broader consultations.

Stakeholder identification

The first step of the Stakeholder Analysis is to identify the stakeholders of the mine closure process and to find appropriate groupings and sub-groupings in the often large array of potentially affected parties. In particular, key stakeholders should be identified, defined as those whose participation in the mine closure process is necessary for a successful closure.

When identifying stakeholders, the first group to consider are stakeholders who will be directly affected by mine closure, either positively (beneficiaries) or negatively (adversely impacted). When a mine closes, the cessation of an important economic activity with major employment opportunities often affects several people in the area. Vulnerable groups should be carefully considered, keeping in mind households with significant dependency on the employment directly or indirectly provided by the mining activity and poor possibilities to relocate or find other sources of income in the area. Other vulnerable groups that may have gone unnoticed in the first stakeholder identification exercise may be identified when discussions with the initially delineated stakeholders are started.

For both the economic and environmental effects of mine closure, a geographic approach of delineating the spatial distribution of the influence of the closure project may be used. It involves sketching the project’s area (sphere) of influence, separately for each type of effect and including, where possible, the intensity of the impact (impact zoning). This exercise should include not only the immediate effects of the operations to be closed but also any associated facilities affected as well as cumulative or indirect impacts. The latter may be especially important for the economic and social effects of a mine closing. The need to establish such spheres of influence for the environmental effects (emissions) should be taken into account when designing the engineering solutions of mine closure as the generation and spreading of the residual emissions from the closed facilities eventually determine the spatial extent of these effects. It should also be kept in mind that perceived effects often extend well beyond the boundaries of the actual physical effects.

Not all effects of mine closure on stakeholders are directly measurable environmental or economic changes, however. Identification of both the supporters and opponents of the closure project is essential even though mine closure may not face as much opposition as opening a mine. As is the case with new mining projects, some of the most visible and vocal stakeholders may come from outside of the project’s direct sphere of influence. It is the interests of these individuals, groups and organizations that make them stakeholders even if they are not affected by the mine closure themselves. Such groups may often have a high potential influence on the success of the project and should be included in the analysis. As with all stakeholders and their representatives, however, the legitimacy and relevance of these non-local interest-based groups should be carefully analyzed. In particular, the motivations and agendas of the interest-based stakeholders should be related to those of the stakeholders directly affected by the project to ensure that the priorities of those most affected are taken into account. In any case, communication should be established also with the interest-based groups and these groups should also be kept informed of the project progress.

Stakeholder interests and concerns

Stakeholders may have interests in or concerns of the mine closure project. Mapping these interests and concerns helps in understanding the views of individual stakeholder groups. To understand stakeholders’ interests, estimate for each of the identified stakeholders how they may benefit from the mine closing or from the closure project and what interests or motives the stakeholder may have. Some of the interests may not be directly related to the closure project but be in conflict or concert with its aims and some may relate to other stakeholders’ position in the process. Note that some of the individual motives may be hidden, especially if they are not in line with the commonly accepted aims of the majority of the stakeholders or the particular stakeholder group. In fact, it is always useful to keep in mind that not all individuals in a group share the same views and the views also change with time.

Stakeholder concerns are not only opposites of the interests but are often more variable. Many of the concerns are implicitly used already in the project influence mapping and stakeholder identification exercise but it is advisable to also study the concerns in more detail. Importantly, many of the concern relate to the perceived or reputational effects of the closure project rather than direct environmental or economical effects.

Stakeholder importance and influence

In addition to examining the interests and concerns of the stakeholder groups, their importance to and influence on the project may be studied. Importance here refers to the degree in which the success of the closure project depends on the engagement of particular stakeholders. Such groups usually are those who are directly affected by the success of the closure project and its outcomes, aligning their interests with the closure objectives. Stakeholders with high importance to the project, e.g. original residents living and owning property close to the mine site, may not have the power or means to exert notable influence on the closure project. There may be other stakeholders with more power (political or otherwise), control of resources, informal influence and connections than those most affected by mine closure.

Stakeholder importance and influence may be studied in various tabular forms. For instance, stakeholder can be placed in quadrants of high or low importance and high or low influence. In such a grouping stakeholders that fall in the high importance-low influence category require special attention whereas for stakeholders with low importance and influence less participation may suffice. Stakeholders also may be listed in a tabular form in which the importance and influence of each group is described. Here, the positive and negative impacts may be listed separately in the importance section.

Stakeholder involvement and participation planning

Not all stakeholder groups need to be involved and engaged with similar intensity during all phases of the project. Same forms of participation also may not be suitable for all stakeholders. It is quite appropriate to prioritize stakeholders and design stakeholder engagement in a stratified manner to make the process more efficient and less costly. However, care must be taken not to exclude any groups in this process or provide too low a level of information to some types of stakeholders.


IFC 2007. Stakeholder engagment: A Good Practice Handbook for Companies Doing Business in Emerging Markets. International Finance Corporation. 172 p.

Shift 2013. Discussion Paper – Stakeholder Engagement and the Extractive Idustry Under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Shift, June2013. 28 p.