Company-community dialogue builds relationships, fairness, and trust leading to social acceptance of Australian mining developments

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Journal Article
Journal of Cleaner Production, 2018, 184 pp. 671 - 677
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© 2018 Elsevier Ltd Social licence to operate has become an integral part of the discourse around social accountability for mining globally. Meaningful engagement between companies and communities has been proposed as a foundation for relationships that support a social licence. The links among these elements are investigated in the present research, which developed and tested a model exploring correlations between one such engagement mechanism, dialogue, and company-community relationships. It also considered other critical elements of social licence, including procedural fairness, trust, and social acceptance of mining. Survey participants (N = 560) were Australians living close to mining or natural gas development across 11 non-metropolitan regions in Australia. Path analyses showed that the more positive community members’ experiences of dialogue were, the stronger their relationships with company personnel and the more they perceived that the procedures used by the mining industry were fair. These factors, fairness and relationships, mediated the significant indirect effects that dialogue had in building trust in the mining industry, which, in turn, predicted increased acceptance of mining. The findings support previous research in indicating that fairness, trust, and acceptance are critical elements in social acceptance. The findings provide an empirical link between these factors and the quality of dialogue and of company-community relationships. These results have implications for future research on social licence and the development of engagement strategies that seek to foster community and broader social acceptance.
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