The geographic imperative of ore systems leaves mining, more so than virtually any other aspect of modern industry, heavily dependent on obtaining and maintaining social licence to operate. A prospective miner cannot arbitrarily walk away from a deposit in search of more favourable community perceptions – concentrations of mineral endowment represent highly specific and fixed elements of the landscape, and their development and extraction thus requires the acceptance and trust of a specific network of landholders and stakeholders, sometimes with diverse and even competing interests in the development and use of the local environment.
Weakness or absence of such social licence can bring added costs and complexity to developing and operating a mine – and in extreme cases even result in project failure. Because it must be maintained throughout the life of a project, such social risk becomes a substantial part of overall project risk profile, particularly during routine operations once initial technical and development risks have been largely resolved.
Bromfield, H, Roberston, S, Shah, B, Shanahan, R, Trench, A and Batt, G, 2018. On equitable distribution of mining wealth and the social licence to operate imperative – an African case study, in Proceedings Complex Orebodies Conference 2018, pp 6–7 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).