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Keiran Doyle - Environmental & social maturity as a tool for guiding responsible practice in the...

Updated: May 31, 2020

Environmental & social maturity as a tool for guiding responsible practice in the extraction of raw materials

Significant industrial and mining incidents have motivated widespread studies into the relationship between safety culture and the incidence of workplace accidents. Safety culture is defined as the prevalent attitudes and perceptions of safety by management and employees. Safety culture maturity has been used to develop a tool that enables organisations to assess their own performance based on factors such as management commitment to safety, quality of risk assessments, and the approach to incident investigations. In modern day mining operations, risks are also evaluated in terms of environment and social (E&S) impacts, which is built into mine planning. In this work, the principles of safety maturity are applied to develop a novel approach to E&S culture maturity. The aim is to enable companies to self-scrutinise and improve their operational practices from an environmental and societal perspective.

The E&S models each comprise 4 levels that progressively increase in maturity, with the goal being to move up the culture ladder by implementing the suggested criteria given for each stage, including community involvement, employment opportunities, energy use, air quality management, and so on. The case studies used to develop the model and its criteria are located in Bosnia and Herzegovina where a number of mines recommenced operations recently following conflict in the region. The model will be subsequently developed to consider the specific, complex challenges that are most influential in earning a social licence to operate. From a socio-environmental perspective, it is inferred that the success or failure of a mining project is primarily influenced by the level of trust between the company and the local communities & authorities. Therefore, it is in a company’s best interests to ensure regular collaboration with local representatives in decision making and transparency in public dissemination, as well as routine environmental management and pollution mitigation.

In the context of responsible raw materials extraction, this cultural maturity model is intended to provide guidance for companies to help them understand their strengths and their shortcomings in sustainable mining practice, which can then be used to produce targeted improvement measures that push the company and/or site up to a higher level of cultural maturity. Fundamentally, a positive alteration of underlying attitudes and perceptions regarding responsible extraction is the key to sustainable mining of important raw materials in the future, particularly those that are critical for modern technologies that society is becoming increasingly dependent on.


Keiran is a postgraduate research student currently based at the Camborne School of Mines with the University of Exeter, investigating the safety and sustainable development of small-scale, high-grade mining operations. The aim of his study is to assess the particular risks and hazards associated with small-scale, low-impact mining on site personnel and local populations, and provide an innovative, novel approach to management of health &safety, social and environmental impacts in order to improve sustainability and responsibility in extractive operations. His PhD is being conducted as part of the‘IMP@CT’Project,which involves multiple industry and academic partners across Europe, is being funded by the EU's Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation (Grant no.: 730411), and is developing a whole systems solution for small-scale, low-impact mining of high-grade mineral deposits. He graduated from the University of Leicester in July 2017 with an MGeol degree with honours in Applied and Environmental Geology, in which he produced a master’s thesis investigating the controls on ore mineral assemblages at the Cripple Creek Epithermal Au deposit in Colorado, USA. In addition to his PhD studies, Keiran is a Research Associate with Satarla, and a fellow of the Geological Society of London (FGS).

University of Exeter, Camborne School of Mines, Tremough Campus, Penryn, TR10 9EZ, UK


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