ESIA Challenges

Regardless of the jurisdiction, a good project description is critical to any environmental and social impact assessment study.

Detailed project background information included in the ESIA is mostly extracted from the information generated during the engineering prefeasibility and feasibility studies. However, acquisition of some critical background information may not usually be included in the engineering scope, nor is it part of the scope covered by the environmental consultant. Obtaining this information may require more detailed engineering studies.

Information that is usually difficult to obtain are the details related to the construction phase, input sources, quantification of inputs and wastes, volumes and physicochemical characteristics of liquid waste, details of the sanitary facilities, details of the hydraulic infrastructure required to support the project’s infrastructure, as well as specific data required to calculate atmospheric emissions.

SRK’s office in Chile has addressed the development of project descriptions from two perspectives: firstly, as the environmental consultant developing the ESIA; and secondly, from the engineering perspective. When writing the project description, gaps within the information provided by engineering are often identified. This leads to a request for and generation of more detailed information, and thus a delay in the final report. However, from the engineering group’s view, often the environmental consultant developing the ESIA requests information lying beyond the engineer’s initial work scope.

This gap has made generating the information required for an ESIA a separate task with additional scope for both the engineering and environmental groups. This issue becomes especially relevant when a client pursues environmental permitting at a prefeasibility level.

Once the complete requirements of the project description section are fully known, it is possible to identify and list them in a timely manner. With regular interaction between the engineering and the environmental work groups, it is possible to include these requirements within the work scopes of each party, and generate the information in a sufficient and timely manner. As environmental consultants, we are currently trying to highlight these requirements and specify them in our work proposals.

Maria Ines Vidal:

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