DSCC News

How could Nautilus Minerals get a social licence to operate the world's first deep sea mine?

12 January 2017

Article by: Colin Filera *a , Jennifer Gabrielb *b

It is now twenty years since people began to debate the question of how mining companies could show that they possessed a ‘social licence’ for industrial activities that are known to have significant environmental and social costs. Amongst those who believe that the concept has some significance beyond the realm of corporate propaganda, there has been a growing tendency to treat it as something that has to be obtained from local communities who bear most of these costs, and therefore have to be convinced that the costs are outweighed by the benefits. This paper shows how this definition poses a particular problem for the operators of deep sea mining projects because of the uncertainties that surround the definition of the community from whom the licence needs to be obtained. It also shows how different actors, including corporate actors, have tried to shape the ‘negotiation space’ in which to debate the presence or absence of a social licence for the world's first deep sea mine in Papua New Guinea.

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a * Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

b * The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia