"Social license to operate": a real tool or rhetoric? Examining the mining industry in Finland, Australia, and Canada (SA 2014-18)

Responsible leader of the project: Professor  (environmental policy) Rauno Sairinen, University of Eastern Finland & for University of Jyväskylä professor Tapio Litmanen.


Itä-Suomen yliopisto/ Prof. Rauno Sairinen, FL Jukka Sihvonen, YTM Heidi Tiainen & YTT Tuija Mononen,

Jyväskylän yliopisto/ Professori Tapio Litmanen & YTM Tuija Jartti

Contacts: rauno.sairinen@uef.fi; heidi.tiainen@uef.fi; tapio.a.litmanen@jyu.fi; ; tuija.e.jartti@jyu.fi


The project studies cross-cultural variations in social license to mine in the arctic countries of Finland, Sweden, Greenland and Canada from an institutional perspective. The institutional diversity and political-economic complexity of developing SLO in mining is investigated by looking into the nature of the interdependencies of mining-related institutions across economic, political, organisational, planning and social domains.

The general target of the project is divided into the following five research tasks:

Task 1. Conceptual analysis of the Social License to Operate in focus countries

From the theoretical perspective the development of the SLO concept needs to be analyzed and discussed in relation to existing social and policy theories. We will endeavor to analyze the relevant policy concepts in practice, determine the definitions and content of SLO in mining policies and business strategies as well as identify who are the key actors in managing and implementing SLO within the focus countries and especially in Arctic regions.

Task 2. Relationship between institutional arrangements and the SLO

The substudy will investigate current and emerging mining policies and governance mechanisms promoting responsible mining in focus countries, as well as an analysis of the relationships between national mining strategies, institutional governance arrangements, regulatory and self-regulatory frameworks, and SLO. Specifically, what type of institutional arrangements and governance tools can contribute to local trust and legitimacy for mining affairs? Governance tools can refer for example to environmental and social impact assessment, impact and benefit agreements, practices of community engagement and CSR.


Task 3. Regional development and spatial planning as a tool for SLO

The sub-study examines the role and content of regional governance and spatial planning concerning mining development and SLO in the Arctic regions. These arctic regions are primarily characterizes as being sparsely populated areas and therefore the concept of region, area and space may have multiple meanings. The global mining business and its environmental, economic and social impacts are challenging the traditional regional planning and development models as well as those currently under development.

Task 4. Local protests and conflict management

Performance of SLO can be interpreted as a system’s capacity to manage conflict situation. In this subtask, we shall investigate features of local mining protests in Arctic areas and how the various local stakeholders have managed these conflicts.

Task 5. Future challenges

The sub-task is concerned with the comparisons between the different countries and operational future challenges for governments and extractive industries that are developing their own SLO policies.