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An analysis of factors leading to the establishment of a social licence to operate in the mining industry

Jason Prno

Resources Policy, 2013, vol. 38, issue 4, 577-590

Abstract: Communities around the world have increasingly come to demand more involvement in decision making for local mining projects, a greater share of benefits from them if they are to proceed, and assurances that mineral development will be conducted safely and responsibly. At the same time, Bridge (2004) notes full legal compliance with state environmental regulations has become an increasingly insufficient means of satisfying society's expectations with regards to mining issues. There is now a recognised need for mineral developers to gain an additional ‘social licence to operate’ (SLO) in order to avoid potentially costly conflict and exposure to business risks. However, there is a correspondingly limited amount of scholarship specifically focused on SLO. More particularly, there is a need for research that uncovers those factors that lead to the issuance (or non-issuance) of a SLO in the complex and changeable environments that often characterise mineral development. In an effort to identify key determinants of SLO outcomes in the mining industry, this paper presents a comparative case study analysis of four international mining operations: Red Dog Mine in Alaska, USA; Minto Mine in Yukon, Canada; the proposed Tambogrande Mine in Peru; and the Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea. The analysis that is presented also makes use of insights from supplementary key informant interviews conducted by the author and the emerging literature on mining and communities. Five lessons for earning a SLO emerged from this analysis: (1) context is key; (2) a social licence to operate is built on relationships; (3) sustainability is a dominant concern for communities; (4) local benefits provision and public participation play a crucial role; and (5) adaptability is needed to confront complexity.

Keywords: Social licence to operate; Mining; Communities; Sustainability (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:eee:jrpoli:v:38:y:2013:i:4:p:577-590