For the past thirty years, there has been a significant increase in environmental legislation and regulation of mining. Lately the mining companies have also become more aware of the possibility of costly conflicts due to social issues. Social conflicts may arise in spite of the economic benefits the mining operations bring to the local communities. Due to the raise of awareness around the world, the mining industry is facing new challenges regarding how to ensure profitability together with inclusive operations and development.
The social license to operate (SLO) concept was introduced in the mid 90´s and the mining industry was one of the firsts to utilize it, mainly to manage the aroused social risks. Previous case studies implicate that there are several good ways of gaining and obtaining SLO. These include e.g. early and ever ongoing communication, transparency and availability of information and consideration of the local culture in decision making. The bodies that can give SLO to a company are often the societies closest to the actual site of mining operations. But does this actually work in practice? How challenging is the implementation of guidelines at sites? Are the mining companies actually walking the talk?
Our group believes the issue is not whether mining should take place or not, rather than how and where it should happen. It is about reforming the ways of mining operations to ensure environmentally and socially acceptable mining in that specific location.
Adjusting to new ways of thinking can be difficult and unfortunately there is not one universal formula for mining companies to gain and maintain SLO. And even well designed and carefully executed projects may not be successful. But one thing is sure, the SLO can only be born when good relationships between different stakeholders are established with time. That is why we wonder; what makes mining company equitable in the eyes of the community? Can a mining company actually fit in to the society or is it always going to be an outsider?
Team Fidel: Dukpa Rebecca, Karjalainen Emmi, Kemppainen Jenni, Pakkanen Taru, Sainio Tuomas, Vänttinen Kirsikka