Oil Search’s presence has the potential to have a significant impact — both positive and negative — on the day-to-day lives of host communities, so having the trust and support of local stakeholders is important for our success. We experience minimal material interruptions to our operations from community unrest, demonstrating the enduring strength and quality of these relationships.
Coupled with the general socio-political complexity of PNG, the stability of the local operating environment depends on how our employees and contractors interact and engage with local communities, and on how we contribute to inclusive sustainable development.
Engagement and consultation
Developing strong, respectful relationships with community members and consulting with individuals or groups who are interested in or impacted by our activities protects our social licence to operate. Wherever possible, we seek to involve communities in decision-making and to gather the views of everyone who’s affected, including women and other marginalised or vulnerable groups.
Many of our PNG field operations are located on land held under customary law, so any approvals provided in our licence conditions must be validated with landowners to be effective. On-site Community Affairs specialists (all PNG nationals) and a network of resident Village Liaison Officers (VLOs) enable us to take a tailored, localised approach. All our community engagement and consultation considers local land use rights and cultural heritage and practices. Our information dissemination, negotiation and engagement activities consider local decision-making customs and conventions.
We establish a community-nominated Village Liaison Committee (VLO) for all our exploration, drilling or associated activities. This provides a transparent forum in which all parties can participate and make community-led decisions about the opportunities and impacts that affect them.
Our Community Affairs specialists make regular visits to the villages, providing the opportunity for communities to raise concerns or grievances and discuss development projects or sponsorship opportunities. All the visits and resulting commitments are recorded centrally.
Providing effective channels for expressing and resolving grievances and concerns reduces the risk of escalation and ensures we address community concerns appropriately.
Community members can raise matters at any of our sites through the resident VLO or during routine visits by our Community Affairs team. We record the grievance centrally, assess it for potential risk or impact, and elevate or respond to it accordingly. Material grievances are reported to the senior management team and the Board HSSC. This approach ensures grievances relating to our activities can be raised easily and in a culturally appropriate manner.
At times, we can be the most visible outside presence in remote communities. Grievances may be raised on matters that do not relate directly to our activities, such as inter-clan disputes or dissatisfaction with government. If they are not addressed, these issues can undermine our operational stability, so we may play an intermediary or facilitator role – for example, by transporting government officials to the site to address the community grievance.
Land access and resettlement
We are committed to avoiding or minimising displacement or involuntary resettlement during any necessary land access, use or acquisition. Most host communities are Indigenous, land-connected people who are greatly impacted by any change or restriction to their historical land access and use rights. We respect these rights and avoid locations with cultural significance.
We are developing procedures for land access and resettlement outlining our approach to land access, acquisition and resettlement activities in alignment with national legislation, human rights and industry best practice performance standards. This procedure details steps to avoid or minimise involuntary displacement and to effectively manage rare occasions of displacement and any required livelihood restoration.
We have established long-term, positive relationships with landowners and local authorities in villages that host our operations.
When engaging with host community members regarding land access, we:
- Negotiate land access agreements in good faith and in a respectful and reasonable manner,
- Consult with landowners to obtain their consent. These consultations typically cover impact and term of the proposed use or access, employment and business development opportunities,
- Put in place a community land use agreement, and a resettlement and livelihood restoration plan and agreements if displacement or relocation is required,
- Pay compensation and land rental amounts to local landowners for land use in accordance with the PNG Valuer-General rates, as required by the PNG Oil & Gas Act. We assess and pay this compensation transparently, in the presence of relevant community and government representatives or independent observers,
- Hold funds in trust if there are disputes over land ownership, land damage compensation or land rentals, until government representatives or other acceptable parties facilitate a resolution that is agreed by all parties.
Understanding the actual and potential social impacts of our operations and sustainable development projects is sometimes challenging, but it’s essential. It underpins our approach to social responsibility, helping us to realise opportunities and mitigate negative impacts.
We are updating our procedure on social impact assessment and management; outlining our approach to impact management.
We conduct social impact screening or a social impact assessment for all new operations and projects. The assessment’s scope depends on the scale and duration of the activity. We also identify opportunities to generate positive impacts, such as through local procurement or employment. This process is preceded by socio-economic baseline assessments, and in PNG social mapping and landowner identification. These ensure we understand and work within the area’s unique social structures and norms.
Oil Search conducts socio-economic surveys to measure indicators across a range of areas, such as demographics, education levels, literacy, water supply, sanitation, village infrastructure, nutrition and expenditure patterns. We report the survey results to the PNG Government and use them to inform our sustainable development planning.
We continue to work on improving how we measure and evaluate the social impact of our sustainable development programmes and activities. Our sustainable development investment and output data is available from the Data Centre.