Mining Companies and Local Communities: Time for Change

by Fritz Brugger, Selina Bezzola (presenting author)

ETH Zurich, Switzerland

 

Natural resource extraction is a disruptive and inherently conflictual business. For the communities surrounding extractive operations, everything from livelihood opportunities to the visual landscape changes. For the mining company costly business interruptions can occur when local populations take the street over disagreement with extractive outcomes. To mitigate the risk of conflict and ensure operational stability, an increasing number of extractive companies seek a “social license to operate” (SLO) from local communities. We argue that this functionalist approach to the community-company relationship severely limits the ability to properly understand complex local dynamics. Based on relational theory and integrating insights from research into the emergence of civil conflict and into the role of institutions in creating social capital we introduce the Resource Impact Dashboard (RID), a novel methodology to assess local level development outcomes in extractive settings over time. The RID captures social dynamics, economic changes, and environmental parameters in order provide a holistic view of how large-scale industrial mining shapes local realities on the ground. The RID monitoring system integrates and triangulates data from representative household surveys, from governments, and from the respective mining company. At the policy level, the data provided by the RID inform deliberations between companies, local populations, and local authorities over the distribution of costs and benefits, participation and development priorities. The RID is a cloud-based methodology and data presentation platform that is publicly available for deployment in any large-scale extractive setting. We also report preliminary insights from testing the RID in four mine sites in Burkina Faso and Mozambique.