Inroads for SRK Cape Town in Suriname
21 April 2015 – Cape Town: Starting a mining operation in a country covered mainly by pristine rainforest is bound to be a challenging task, but SRK Consulting’s Cape Town office has for over a decade been successfully applying its environmental and social impact expertise in just such a place.
The fact that Suriname, South America’s smallest independent country, is almost 9,000 km away across the Atlantic Ocean has not prevented SRK partner and principal environmental
consultant Chris Dalgliesh and his team from developing strong working links there with a substantial network of clients and local consultants.
Our work in Suriname began in 2003, when we were asked to assist our SRK colleagues in the United Kingdom with an urgent project,” said Dalgliesh. “We placed one of our environmental specialists in Suriname for a three-month period, and this led to us working on other contracts and becoming increasingly involved with colleagues in our field in Suriname.”
This initial project led to SRK involvement in about half a dozen mid-size environmental impact assessments (EIAs) in Suriname. The work progressively raised their profile until a very large bauxite venture engaged their input. The project envisaged a potential mine life of 50 years or more, and covered a massive 2,800 square kilometre concession – therefore holding significant environmental and other impacts.
“This was a mega-project with very high stakes for all involved, and we managed the EIA process for over three years, with a large team almost permanently on the job,” he said. “It was an extremely busy time in which we made close to 50 visits to site and attended meetings all over the world with the various stakeholders and the client.”
Given its location, the project required an assessment of every conceivable impact a mine could have on its environment, said Dalgliesh.
“Looming large was the prospect of a mine impacting the state of Suriname’s indigenous forest, and there was little baseline data to work from,” he said. “Indigenous Amerindian communities with unofficial title to land, could be affected; and a suite of international Non-Governmental Organisations also closely scrutinised the EIA process.”
The scope of the EIA extended beyond the mine site, to include the transportation route that the mined bauxite would have to traverse – including 150 km down the Corantijn River on the border with Guiana, 250 km along the coastline, and 75 km up the Suriname River to an alumina refinery.
This project really raised our profile and brought us closer to potential clients, government regulators and other consultants in Suriname.
“Perhaps one of our most important contributions to date has been to set the benchmark for best practice in environmental and social impact assessments, as Suriname is still in the process of developing its own regulations in this regard,” said Dalgliesh. “Our experience in applying global standards such as the Equator Principles – and our familiarity with relevant regulations in mining countries around the world – meant we were well placed to conduct work of the highest quality in Suriname.”
SRK’s close relationship with the country’s National Institute for Environment and Development (Nationaal Institut voor Milieu en Ontwikkeling in Suriname, or NIMOS) has led to its engagement by government to help accredit local skills. As part of this process, Dalgliesh recently conducted training on behalf of NIMOS for certain of the institute’s staff members as well about 30 local environmental consultants.
“Our links with local experts have also been really beneficial on a mutual basis,” he said. “We engage local consultants on a range of issues when we manage projects in the country, sharing our approach and technical skills as we go. Typically SRK will manage the more technical studies for the EIA, such as vibration analysis, noise modelling and air quality. In turn, local consultants bring a depth of scientific knowledge and experience of local conditions including biodiversity, social impact, stakeholder engagement, surface and groundwater, and marine biology.”
Other than bauxite, oil is also an important commodity for Suriname, and SRK has conducted EIAs for state-owned, integrated oil company Staatsolie; other government clients have included the country’s most important energy supplier Energiebedrijven Suriname (EBS).
“Making communication easier for us is the fact that, while Dutch is the official language, it is spoken in a manner e that Afrikaans-speakers can readily understand – quite a rare cultural advantage for our Western Cape team!” said Dalgliesh.
About SRK Consulting www.srk.co.za
SRK Consulting is a leader in natural resource and development solutions, providing independent technical advice and services through over 50 offices in 22 countries, on six continents. With an African presence in Angola and Cameroon, and practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, the global group employs more than 1,500 staff in a range of engineering, scientific, environmental and social disciplines.