What is behind the search for social acceptability of mining projects ? Political economy and legal perspectives on Canadian mineral extraction

Bonnie Campbell and Marie-Claude Prémont

From the dual disciplinary perspective of law and political economy, this papers draws on a select literature to identify (1) two characteristics of Canadian mining rights and regulations which may generate social dissatisfaction ; (2) the two main techniques currently implemented in order to answer social demands, including those of indigenous peoples and communities and (3) three important governance transformations” emerging from these phenomena. It concludes with a number of lessons.
In spite of the ongoing and recent efforts to reform the mining regime in certain provinces or territories, mining rights and regulations in Canada are still based on the free mining principle where mining is paramount to any other activity, be it social or economic. Efforts to respond to dissatisfaction over extraction projects and social demand for changes have focused on strengthening negotiated local economic benefits and a quest for local support in order to ensure the social acceptability of projects in the sector. These phenomena lead to three major ongoing governance transformations : the regulatory stalemate in spite of the need for reform ; ongoing shifts in multi-level governance ; and the devolution of responsibilities to the private sector. In the context of the stronghold of the free mining principle and negotiated agreements, the focus on social acceptability takes for granted or even reinforces the withdrawal and selective absence of public authorities and overlooks their possible roles and responsibilities.

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