Agency wins prestigious award for mining communications

Site visits with First Nation leadership, community members and government officials were an important component of the external communication.

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PRA Communications, representing Seabridge Gold’s KSM Project, has recently clinched the esteemed Gold SABRE award, recognizing exemplary communication and public relations within the Energy and Natural Resources Industry. This accolade not only celebrates a significant triumph for the company but also signals a notable shift in an industry often criticized for communication challenges.

Robert Simpson, President and CEO of PRA Communications, remarked, “Contrary to common belief, the mining industry excels in public communication. Extensive communication is not only necessary but imperative for obtaining permits to operate, securing permissions from First Nations, and gaining social acceptance from the public.”

The KSM Project, situated in Northwestern British Columbia’s Golden Triangle, presented a substantial communication challenge for Seabridge Gold. To acquire environmental certifications, the project necessitated demonstrating its lack of adverse environmental impacts and garnering support from various stakeholders and rightsholders, including five First Nations, two cities three municipalities, and British Columbia, Canadian, Alaskan and US governmental bodies.

Seabridge Gold employees attended over 300 trade shows, community meetings, technical and working group meetings during the environmental assessment process.

“It’s imperative to recognize that it’s not enough to simply demonstrate a project’s lack of adverse effects on the environment. Proponents must also prioritize building relationships with the First Nation community members, residents living in nearby cities, towns and municipalities, and, in our case, with British Columbia, Canadian, Alaska and US regulators. It’s only after mutual trust is established that meaningful and transparent discussions about the scientific aspects of the project can start,” says Brent Murphy, Senior Vice President Environment for Seabridge Gold.

To initiate the project, PRA Communication undertook comprehensive baseline research. This involved assessing the levels of knowledge and support among various stakeholder and rightsholder groups regarding the KSM Project. Furthermore, the research aimed to pinpoint specific concerns held by these groups.

“The best communication strategies are founded in research and measurable. Once the baseline is established you can measure and show the successes of your communications to regulatory decision makers along the way,” says Simpson.

“In my previous experience, strategic communication and reputation management was either overlooked during the environmental assessment process or relegated to scientists and engineers, who are not professional communicators. At Seabridge we understood professional, comprehensive, strategic and measurable communication and public relations was critical for our success.,” says Murphy.

From the executive suite to environmental scientists and camp workers, every member of Seabridge Gold’s team actively engaged in project communications. This commitment was particularly evident during the rigorous eight-year environmental assessment process, which stands as the largest and most comprehensive ever conducted in North America. Throughout this period, company representatives participated in over 500 trade shows, round tables, community meetings, information sessions and technical working groups listening and answering people’s questions and concerns about the KSM Project.

Seabridge Gold Community Relations Staff unpack KSM Project Newsletters hot off the Press.

Simpson emphasizes that for success to thrive, communication must hold a prominent place in management’s agenda across the entire organization. Every individual, be it employees, consultants, or contractors, should feel empowered, recognizing themselves as ambassadors for the company.

The KSM project was granted an Environmental Assessment Certificate by British Columbia, a certificate from the federal government, and EA approval under terms of the Nisga’a Treaty. Upon submission of the Environmental Assessments community and First Nations support for the KSM Project measured through polling and interviews was 76 percent. In addition, the Tahltan Nation voted 83 percent in favor of the KSM Project and the Impact Benefits Agreement.

Seabridge Gold received letters of support for their environmental assessment application from the Cities of Terrace, Smithers, the Districts of Stewart and Hazelton. The company successfully signed benefit agreements with the Nisga’a Lisim and Tahltan Central Governments, a Sustainability Agreement Gitanyow Wilps represented by the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs’ Office and the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs endorsed the KSM Project with a letter of support for the environmental assessment approval.

Upon certification of the KSM Project, Seabridge Gold was acknowledged by the Province of British Columbia as an industry model for its consultation, engagement and external communication.

“I want to make it clear, the SABRE Award reflects the work and commitment of a lot of people over the years, both at PRA Communication and Seabridge Gold, so in all respects this award is a shared,” says Simpson.

The SABRE Awards are the world’s largest PR awards programme dedicated to benchmarking the best PR and communication work from across the globe. The Gold Sabre Awards were presented at a ceremony in New York, May 1, 2024.

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