Ormonde Puts Dialogue With Locals At The Centre Of Its Plans

Thursday, 12 March, 2015

“We’ve had good local relations from the start”, says Ormonde Mining’s Kerr Anderson.

Ormonde’s presence on the ground in the Castilla y Leon region of Spain dates back many years now, to early 2006, when the company moved to acquire a moribund tungsten mine called Barruecopardo.

Since then the mining boom and bust has come and gone, but Ormonde has pressed on, encouraged in part by the significant measure of local support for the company’s plans to bring Barruecopardo back into operation.

“Barruecopardo is a small village that has got an ageing population”, explains Kerr. “People can remember when there was a mine and there were hundreds of people on site. For them it’s about jobs and youth and bringing a bit of vibrancy back.”

For those more used to a negative flow of news about international mining companies, it’s worth noting that this is not an isolated case.

In the sense that it has garnered strong support locally, Barruecopardo is similar to the Cononish mine currently in development by Scotgold, which we featured on these pages a few weeks ago.

Both are situated in rural communities that are looking for a significant economic boost. Both have been waiting a long time. But both companies have also done a stand-out job of keeping the respective communities up-to-date, well informed, and on-side.

In Scotgold’s case there was the added complication of serious opposition to permitting from urban elites concerned to keep the mine’s locale fresh and clean for their weekend visits. But rural populations the world over know that the land is there to be worked.

And in Ormonde’s case, there very little opposition at all.

“Our chief operating officer Steve Nicol lives locally and meets everybody on a regular basis”, says Kerr.

“Right from the start Steve held meetings with absolutely everybody. With anybody who could come into contact with the project, from local farmers to the fire department, everybody. Then in 2013 there was a public consultation. We only got one public submission. Otherwise the voting on the project has been unanimous on a local level and on a provincial level.”

At this stage Barruecopardo hasn’t been about bringing specific amenities into the local community. Rather, it’s all about jobs and local industry, and being part of the local economy.

“It’s a small village”, says Kerr. “But we’ve got an office and it’s open three times a week. So we’re there.” The company also has an office in Salamanca to the west, but is in the process of relocating everything to Barruecopardo.

So, in spite of Ormonde’s listing on the Aim market of the London stock exchange and its head office in Ireland, this is not a remote operation at all.

“We’ve got a Spanish company called Solovo”, says Kerr. And it’s right at the heart of the community, and dialogue remains ongoing.

“There is an understanding that this is a project that will bring benefits”, continues Kerr. “The local mayor has been our biggest supporter. He sees the benefits for the area. It’s big for everybody. And people know that we will do it responsibly. There is oil contamination at site – we’re going to clean that up as part of what we’re doing.”

All of which has meant that permitting has proceeded relatively smoothly to the point where Ormonde is now nailing down the finance to get the project built. A partner has already been lined up and a broad outline agreement reached. Now it remains only to thrash out the fine details.

But even if the news at a corporate level is now all about big money deals, Kerr is under no illusions that he could have taken Ormonde to this stage without a sound strategy for treating with the locals on the ground.

“You’ve got to get it right from the start”, he says. “If you get it wrong it’s very hard to claw things back.”