Social License to Operate

Globally, nearly every new mining project presents difficult choices between the local impact and the global demand for minerals. Mining engineers and exploration geologists often find themselves confronting tough ethical controversies.

The teaching of ethics is widespread in fields such as medicine, business and law, while ethics instruction related to mineral resource development generally lacks the breadth and well-defined applicability of those fields. Yet geologists, engineers and social scientists in our industry today face ethical questions that are as difficult, pervasive and urgent as those of any profession.

Critical ethical issues confronting our industry include:

  • Competition for use of the earth’s resources between developed and developing nations
  • Treatment of indigenous people
  • Tensions between environmental concerns, human health risks and economic growth

Social, political and ecological dilemmas emerge when trying to balance the potential negative local impact of a mine with the greater global need for materials supply. The process of investigation, discovery, development and exploitation of mineral resources can be fraught with controversy that many are unprepared to address.

That’s why the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources is developing collaborations with legal scholars and social scientists to prepare both students and professionals for the challenges of obtaining a social license to operate.

We collaborate with the James E. Rogers College of Law on research and education related to mining, natural resource and environmental law, human rights and indigenous peoples interactions with extractive industries.