Establishing a Social License to Operate in Mining

Establishing a Social License to Operate in Mining

Areas of Study: Environment and Community

Qualifies for CMS

This is a course for anyone concerned with sustainable community relationships in mining ... professionals, managers, regulators, NGOs, community leaders and graduate students. The course explains how a mining company can earn and maintain a social license to operate.

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  • Audience Level:
  • Professional
  • Enrollment:
  • Required
  • Duration:
  • 9 hours

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Certification is optional. Enrollment is required for Certification.

  • Fee for Certification:
  • Not Available
  • Completion:
  • 20 days
  • CEUs:
  • 0.9 (9 PDHs)

Course Summary


This is a course for anyone concerned with sustainable community relationships in mining: professionals, managers, regulators, NGOs, community leaders and graduate students. The course explains how a mining company can earn and maintain a social license to operate. It begins with the business case for dedicating resources to the social license and describes the returns a company could expect from each successive level of license. The course also explores what can be done to make the issuer of the license more politically stable so that the company's social political risk is reduced and the community's readiness for sustainable development is enhanced. Finally the course looks at the overlap between these activities and areas of corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, and sustainability reporting.

Part 1 of the course explains what a social license to operate is, why it is important to mining companies, and how the general management theory known as the "resource dependence view of competitive advantage" explains how relationships with stakeholders affect project feasibility and success.

Going deeper, Part 2 describes the four levels of social license and the three boundary criteria that must be met to go from one level to another, and examines common factors that can cause the level of social license to rise or fall.

Turning to the issuer of the social license, Part 3 of the course draws on social network analysis concepts to explore the many ways a community could be unable to issue a social license that is durable and socially legitimate, and looks beneath the stakeholder politics at the social capital patterns that can improve a community's capacity to issue a solid social license, while simultaneously raising the level of social license the community grants to the company.

Course Content

Establishing a Social License to Operate in Mining is structured with three parts and a total of 12 learning sessions of 30-60 minutes each, plus interactive reviews. Course duration is equivalent to approximately nine hours of learning content.

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify the concept, principles and business case for a social license to operate in mining, and the risks involved in ignoring the importance of a social license.
  • Identify the nature and dynamics of the stakeholder network, the role of social capital, and how to interact with communities to establish a legitimate social license to operate.
  • Identify the requirements of maintaining a durable social license to operate.

Recommended Background

  • A basic understanding and experience of mineral exploration and mining projects.
  • An appreciation of the requirements and objectives of communities in the context of mineral exploration and mining projects.

Robert G. Boutilier PhD.

Robert Boutilier, Ph.D., is a researcher, author, and president of Boutilier & Associates, a social research consultancy ( He is also an associate of the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at Simon Fraser University and of the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, Melbourne. Specializing in mining and infrastructure projects, Robert has conducted stakeholder mapping research and workshops on stakeholder relations for managers in Argentina, Austria, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, DR Congo, France, Ghana, Mali, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Tanzania, and the United States. He is a regular conference speaker and has published scholarly articles on firm–stakeholder relations and community development issues in the Journal of Business Ethics, the Journal of Corporate Citizenship, and Resources Policy. He currently lives in México, where he wrote his latest book, A Stakeholder Approach to Issues Management (Business Expert Press, 2011).

Ian Thomson PhD.

Ian Thomson has more than 40 years of experience in the mining industry, working for the last two decades to advance and refine the management of social issues in resource development projects. His area of expertise includes stakeholder engagement, capacity building, design and development of sustainable social relations and guiding multi-stakeholder processes. His years of experience in exploration and mine feasibility studies enable him to ground his assessment of social issues in an understanding of the technical aspect of mine finding and development.

Thomson has led development of new standards and guidelines for best practice management of social issues during exploration, facilitated construction of the Principles and Guidance for Responsible Exploration for the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), and was a prime mover in developing both the concept and metrics of the Social License to Operate. He is Principal of Shinglespit Consultants Inc., prior to that he was a founding member and principal of On Common Ground Consultants Inc. and held management positions with Orvana Minerals Corp and Placer Development Ltd.

In May 2015, Ian was honored as CIM Distinguished Lecturer in recognition of his dedication to promoting sustainability in the industry and the CIM community.