Permitting a new mine: Insights from the community debate

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When a mining company selects a site for development, the company begins a dialogue with the local community about receiving the necessary approvals for the mining permits. The dialogue focuses on how well the company can use science and technology to manage risk to the local environment, and on how much economic benefit will be gained by the local community for accepting the risk. A useful approach to better understand how the debate affects the outcome of the permitting effort is to use the method of “discourse communities and analysis”. This paper analyzes two efforts by Kennecott (Rio Tinto) and one by Exxon to develop base metal mine sites in the Upper Midwest of the USA. As the three case studies show, the local pro- and anti-mining discourse community members will not be changing their basic positions as the permitting of a new mine is debated. Accordingly, both communities are trying to convince undecided stakeholders rather than talking to each other. Both sides are using ever more sophisticated media methods to communicate their message to the undecided residents of the community. By winning the support of the majority of the undecided residents, political pressure can be used to sway the decision.

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© 2010 Elsevier Ltd. Publisher’s version of record: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301420710000103

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