Social license in mining – the secret sauce

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Sheridan Coakes, and Richard Parsons

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Ecological restoration of mine sites, as with all processes of land-use change, is most effective when the social dimensions of that change are integrated throughout the process. Having evolved over 25 years of theory and practice, the idea of ‘social license’ – alongside related concepts such as corporate social responsibility, stakeholder theory, and community engagement – demonstrates that: • mining activities are more accepted by communities when those communities experience genuine benefits in the short and long term; • perceptions of procedural fairness in decision-making strongly influence levels of community approval; • the trust gained through genuine relationship-building is critical to long-term success; • optimum site outcomes result when expert knowledge combines with local knowledge gained through community participation; • there is a moral obligation, as well as an instrumental justification, for involving affected communities in decisions that affect them. These key elements of social license to operate (SLO) – genuine benefits, procedural fairness, trust, community participation, and a strong moral foundation – are now well understood in the literature. Yet, as seasoned social practitioners, having both researched and applied our craft across many project and community contexts, we regularly find that the concept and application of SLO remain challenging for many companies. Drawing on various case studies, this paper/presentation explores what we believe to be the ‘secret sauce’ of SLO; that is, the main ingredients required to develop and sustain collaborative, participatory, and trusting relationships with stakeholders, and that deliver improved project and operational outcomes in the long-term time horizons needed for ecological restoration.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program