Solving complex socio-political and commercial problems in the mining industry.


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Social and political risk is a threat to your business

Every mining business faces social and political risks.

Obtaining regulatory approvals, dealing with local communities, addressing the concerns of environmental activists and engaging with the media are just some of the ways in these risks present themselves.

Sometimes regarded as ‘soft issues’ and treated as less important, or less complicated, than the ‘hard issues’ of production, costs and shareholder returns.

Yet, even a casual review of the history of the industry will show many examples of viable projects curtailed, delayed or denied approval because of social and political issues.

Emergent Advisory was founded in 2014 to help mining companies develop effective strategies for mitigating social and political risk.

Emergent Advisory’s methodologies have been developed over 15 years based on David Paterson’s frontline experience working at businesses with complex reputation challenges in remote Australia, UK, Mongolia and Zambia.

They have also been informed by his wide-ranging commercial and analytical experience.

Emergent Advisory can help you go beyond “public relations” responses and develop strategies that address the causes of conflict.


Emergent Advisory can help you mitigate social and political risk

Emergent Advisory will commence an engagement by seeking to understand your problem thoroughly. Most likely this will involve an Intensive 3 hour workshop which can be conducted in person, or remotely via video conference. Your reputation challenges will be throughly analysed and a written action plan provided shortly thereafter.

At the heart of our methodology, the first focus is to ensure that stakeholders are kept well informed, that systems are in place to ensure the environment is protected, and to examine opportunities to make an economic contribution to the area affected by your business.

Beyond this, there are a range of modules that might be selected to build a robust strategy to build a strong reputation.

These are:

  • Developing a media narrative

  • Measuring your social contribution

  • Preparing for crisis communications

  • Demonstrating environmental performance

  • Engaging in constructive advocacy

  • Engaging productively with government

  • Contributing to the local economy

  • Engaging strategically with activists

  • Harness the power of internal communications

Typically, a strategy will involve 3 of these modules depending upon the priorities of your business.

Emergent Advisory has a proven track record providing advice to mining companies, enabling them to effectively manage social and political risk.  Every company can do more to reduce their business risk and improve their reputation. 

With a wealth of global experience working with businesses facing difficult challenges, we know what works.

Our strategy is built on three core elements to deliver a lower risk and more profitable future for clients:

  • Open communications to foster transparency and build trust

  • Ensuring environmental performance is excellent

  • Making a measurable improvement in social outcomes near your operations.

With 15 years experience doing this work, and 30 years in the mining industry, David Paterson is one of only a few people in the world with his combination of corporate and frontline perspectives.

Emergent Advisory develops tailored solutions to your unique circumstances to resolve conflicts and build greater social licensing for your company. We provide a unique approach to suit your specific company needs and requirements.

The following methods can be used to develop a solution:


diagnostic workshop

Emergent Advisory offers clients an Intensive 3 hour Diagnostic Workshop.

This workshop helps to clearly define your current stakeholder and reputational positioning and challenges you could be facing - from the IP an lenses of Experts who know!

We will facilitate a process designed to understand the context of your business: operationally, financially, politically and socially. Including an examination of your company’s relationship with its’ most influential partners and stakeholders that impact brand power and profit margins.

Following this workshop, you will be provided with a detailed evaluation of your current situation and recommendations for an improvement plan to meet your specific company goals.

Drawing upon 30 years of experience gained in a wide variety of businesses around the world, we are equipped to provide fresh insights and concrete steps towards an improved future for your company.



Emergent Advisory will work with your key people involved in stakeholder relationships.

Whether their focus is:

  • media

  • government relations

  • community engagement

  • corporate affairs

  • crisis management

Emergent Advisory will increase the capacity of your team. They will be provided structured mentoring, guidance and encouragement to move your company into a better place.

This training and mentoring can be provided to teams anywhere in the world via online video and audio tools, thereby significantly reducing the cost of providing training to frontline experts. It will be tailored to your peoples current capacity and the business’s needs.



Emergent Advisory offers CEOs, C-suite executive and Boards high-level strategic counsel about the current and future social and political problems that they face.

Founder and Director of EA, David Paterson brings 30 years of experience in the mining sector from more than 30 countries to his work. He has an Economics degree and MBA from leading Australian universities and exposure in both operational and corporate leadership roles.

A trained Economist, David spent the early part of his career in a range of commercial and business analysis roles and spent considerable time in Rio Tinto’s Business Evaluation Department.

He has complemented this with 15 years experience in a wide range of complex mining businesses in Australia, Mongolia and Zambia. And is driven by a conviction that socio-political risks need to be addressed by mining companies with the same analytical rigour and focus as technical risks - before it is too late.


Corporate Communications

Emergent Advisory can improve the quality and precision of your corporate communications.

Whether it a speech for the CEO, media releases or working with an agency to prepare an annual report, we can deliver concise, focussed and strategic messaging to ensure that all stakeholders are clear about what your company stands for.

David Paterson has a demonstrated track record writing for publication, media interviews and conferences presenting.


“In order to get a great reputation a company needs to make measurable positive impact on local communities.”


The African experience


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Creating local economic opportunity

In 2014, Konkola Copper Mines faced a fundamental strategic challenge: to improve its relationship with the Zambian Government while grappling with low copper prices, media criticism and a range of economic challenges.

David Paterson joined the company as Vice President Local Economic Development and Corporate Affairs. In the two years that followed the reputation of the company was turned around by :

  • Identifying and evaluating a range of local economic development options that create employment in the local economy around the mine and build skills of the residents. Today the company is developing an innovative biodiesel project that is creating much needed local jobs and will eventually provide the company with 10% of its fuel requirement while reducing its carbon footprint. Other options exist to increase food production on land irrigated with ground water extracted from around the companies operations.

  • Media coverage improved in terms of volume and ratio of positive to negative stories, by increased transparency, improved engagement with journalists in mainstream media and adoption of social media

  • Adopting a more open engagement with local and national political leaders, allowing for the resolution of a range of longstanding conflicts

Emergent Advisory can help clients to build a strong and constructive engagement with its most important stakeholders, through openness, innovative communications, local economic development projects and an innovative approach to social performance.


The Mongolian


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Developing a socially sustainable business

Mongolia is an emerging mineral producer. It hosts the world-class Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine which is one of the largest copper-gold mines in the world.

Rio Tinto is the major shareholder and manager of the project. From the outset it recognized the need for a strong focus on the project’s “social license”, that the people of Mongolia must feel that they are better off because of the project.

David Paterson was Vice President Regional Development and Communications from 2010 to 2012, during the crucial transition from construction into production. He was responsible for community relations, media engagement and a strong program of economic development in the region around the mine. He was also deeply involved in negotiations between the Government of Mongolia and Rio Tinto in relation to the Investment Agreement governing the relationship between shareholders and the funding of the project.

Emergent Advisory can provide sound advice to mining companies on negotiating with governments, communities, international agencies and the media, and designing a strategy to ensure you make a lasting contribution to the social performance of the region in which you operate.


The Australian experience


Addressing legacy issues

The Ranger uranium mine is arguably the most controversial mine in Australia’s complex history of mining. It is surrounded by World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park and has been bitterly opposed by local Aboriginal groups since its discovery in the 1970s. Some 20 km away from Ranger is Jabiluka, the largest undeveloped uranium deposit in the world and the focus of a bitter national protest movement in the late 1990s.

David Paterson was the head of external affairs for Energy Resources of Australia, owner of both of these assets, from 2004 to 2010. During this time there was a dramatic improvement in the engagement between the company and the local Aboriginal community. The company implemented a range of innovative programs covering cultural heritage management, indigenous employment, collaboration with the tourism sector. It signed the landmark Long Term Care and Maintenance Agreement, under which the company agreed not to develop Jabiluka without the consent of the Traditional Owners. It played an active role in supporting the Traditional Owners aspiration to see the town of Jabiru “scheduled” thereby becoming Aboriginal Land.

Emergent Advisory can assist clients to break out of the viscous cycle of adversarial stakeholder relationships and move the focus of the relationship onto a much more positive footing, through careful listening, innovative problem solving and a preparedness to face the mistakes of the past.




Jolyon Kimble

Director APCO Worldwide, London

“David has a natural, instinctive grasp of the critical economic and political drivers around major mining projects as well as an exceptionally strong understanding of the micro issues. This is built on a wealth of experience on the front line of projects across the world. He is also a great motivator of people and a fine mentor to younger staff, as I witnessed when I worked with him in Mongolia.”

Frank Herbert

Senior Executive and lawyer, former CEO Centerra Mining

“In my dealings with David I found him to be insightful and positive and I enjoyed working with him. His communication skills are good and he appeared to me to have the tact required for working in challenging jurisdictions.”

Graeme Hancock

General Manager – Social Performance, Newcrest Mining

“David managed a team of professionals working in the area of regional development, community relations and communications during the construction and development phase at the huge Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project in Mongolia. This was a difficult role in a very challenging and politically charged environment. David's calm, collected, analytical and considered approach to complex issues was essential in building relationships built on trust and ultimately delivering results in this role.”

Robert Court

Managing Director at Global Stakeholder, former head of Government Relations, Rio Tinto

“David took on an immense range of challenging responsibilities at a time of rapid change and in a complex operating environment. He tackled it all in a positive manner and made a number of important contributions to the progress of the project.”

Scott Knights

Executive general manager, Whitehaven Coal

“David worked in the Manager Business Analysis role immediately prior to my taking over the role. In his time he brought a much needed analytical rigour to the commercial decision making process at Rio Tinto Shipping which improved outcomes and led to a much better understanding of their key function.

His good work in establishing the underlying strategy and business drivers allowed those following to grow Rio Tinto Shipping into a significant Business Unit and key part of their growth in bulk commodities trade.”

Andy Lloyd

Company Director, former director of ERA Limited

“David is an insightful and effective manager who has led a significant shift in business strategy at a key time for ERA. David has been very effective in building key new relationships for the business at an important time.”


“The impact of social and political risk on mining businesses is widely underestimated.”


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