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Examples of successful EIA implementation

Read this article to learn about successful EIA implementation, including social and cultural considerations, and community contributions.

The requirement to undertake EIAs is extremely important to ensure all proposed activities occur in the most sustainable way possible. When they are done properly, they provide robust evidence-based data, which enables informed decision-making. 

What does a successful effective EIA look like? While the debate surrounding this question is common in the literature, a review of the research reveals several key elements.

  • An EIA enables complete documentation of the impacts, which enables decision-makers to see the full scope of both positive and negative impacts.
  • A comprehensive EIA offers various alternatives, such as technologies, solutions, approaches, and tools, to reduce the impact of the project. This advice can downgrade a significant impact to a minor one, thereby enabling the project to proceed. A thorough EIA can also assess the positive impacts of the project on the people and the environment.
  • An effective EIA will often have made provision for stakeholder engagement. This engagement will occur at the screening stage, the scoping stage, and the review stage, where the community may be able to review the actual report.
  • A thorough EIA will examine the social and cultural impact. If that takes place, the stakeholders will also be consulted on their perception of the positive and negative impacts of the proposed activity. 

In some cases, the conditions that will be imposed on the approvals will also carry benefits. For example, a proponent of a wind farm whose activity may displace eagle nests may purchase another area of land that is suitable for eagles to thrive and preserve the species that way. EIA, if done properly, creates opportunities to not only address impacts but contribute to the community and/or area in which it is located.

While it is easier to find examples of EIAs ‘gone wrong’, there also exists a range of case studies that demonstrate the type of best practice principles outlined above. Below are some examples: 

The Los Pelambres copper mine in Chile The Los Pelambres copper mine in Chile

A privately protected wetland in Chile: The Los Pelambres copper mining company took management responsibility for the Conchali Lagoon as a Nature Sanctuary near its port installation. The lagoon is not only a region of high biodiversity but also a key destination for neotropical migratory birds and those travelling between continents. It was added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance in 2004. As part of its commitment to the EIA process, the company engages with the local community, encourages ecotourism, and allows access and use of the site for environmental education activities.

big hole in kimberley, south africa, where De Beers diamond company originated and diamonds were dug out by hand. Largest man made hole on earth A hole dug by De Beers in Kimberley, South Africa

Partnerships for Biodiversity: In Africa, several mining companies, including Anglo Base Metals, De Beers, and Rio Tinto, have joined forces with three conservation non-government organisations (Botanical Society of South Africa, Conservation International, and Fauna & Flora International) to manage biodiversity impacts and protect species in four different case studies. These case studies span South Africa, Madagascar, and New Guinea, and form part of their EIA commitments.

The partnerships are built on the principles of responsible environmental development and characterised by common interests, mutual benefits, trust, and respect between all parties involved. These principles have resulted in long-term effects and have improved dialogue between previously opposing parties over time.

As a result of these partnerships, stakeholder relations have been enhanced, and biodiversity conservation has been improved. The companies involved have also experienced greater consumer confidence, as their willingness to engage and contribute to environmental outcomes has had a positive impact on their reputations.

Aerial view of observation tower with Finnish flag among blue lakes and green forests in summer Finland. Aulanko Observation Tower, Hameenlinna, Finland Aulanko Observation Tower, Hameenlinna, Finland

Whole system EIA in Finland: Finland is an example of a nation that has a strong and rigorous environmental impact framework. A study undertaken to evaluate the EIA system in Finland found that it played a major role in environmental policy tools. Its implementation enhanced the opportunity for high-quality environmental decision-making.

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Environmental Impact Assessment

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