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Working paper

Enduring community value from mining: conceptual framework

7 Nov 2012

Enduring Community Value (ECV) from mining refers to lasting benefit to groups of people and entities who have some kind of stake in mining. The aim of this analysis is to develop a conceptual framework for realising the ECV from mining as a foundation for further research and associated action. We developed the conceptual framework for ECV through analysis of literature and a researcher workshop. For the literature analysis, we interrogated literature at the six intersections of four concepts: mining, remote communities, sustainability, and resilience. We searched the Web of Knowledge database to identify literature at the six intersections of these four concepts. Articles identified by each search were then culled against relevance criteria. The resulting six sets of journal articles and conference papers were analysed to identify the content and implications of each publication that are relevant to the concept of ECV. Each set highlighted various issues and experiences. Key points are:

Mining and resilience: Resilience in the mining industry means the competitiveness of companies. In contrast, in social-ecological systems theory, resilience means the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganise, retaining essentially the same structure and function. Resilience in some aspects of a social-ecological system can be realised at the expense of other parts of the system. Hence, analysis needs to consider dynamic interconnections between parts of the system, at various scales, rather than focusing narrowly on single components. 

Mining and sustainability: Sustainability, in the mining context, requires transformation of assets (or capitals) during the life of a mine into forms of value that are distributed equitably, and that will endure beyond the life of a mine, including for future generations. 

Mining and remote communities: Mining may bring substantially enhanced economic opportunities for remote communities. However, it also brings substantial risks of entrenching remote community dependency because of low initial human capital, weak endogenous governing institutions, rent-seeking behaviours and a lack of effective established government–community partnerships.

Resilience and remote communities: Long-term persistence of remote communities in spite of shocks and stresses indicates their resilience. However, resilience is not necessarily a positive quality, since it can involve entrenched disadvantage. Information, new ideas and expanded support networks are important for remote communities to address disadvantage.

Sustainability and remote communities: Approaches to sustainability tend not to account well for the multiple integrated values and intersectoral linkages that characterise remote areas and the frequent tensions between endogenous and external institutions. 

Resilience and sustainability: Mining may potentially trigger desirable system transformations by inputting knowledge, skills and financial resources mobilised at higher scales through globalised corporations into local communities. Important considerations for realising ECV include appropriate governance principles that are explicit, transparent and well supported by shared norms, together with maintaining local traditions and activities that promote coherence between social and ecological system components. 

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