By highlighting the theme of “Social Licence to Operate (SLO)” the present edition of Mining Report Glückauf is picking up on a subject that impacts on all kind of sectors worldwide, and not just the mining industry – though of course it too is affected by it. The Gabler Dictionary of Economics defines SLO as “the ongoing social acceptance of companies”. This is based on the intersubjective perception of members of society and is something that cannot be formally acquired or measured, it being closely linked to the principles of sustainability. The SLO refers to the acceptance by employees, shareholders and the public at large of the business practices and operating methods of companies and indeed of entire industries. Things that just a few years ago would have been considered as reasonable and quite normal are now proscribed and only serve to compromise the SLO and hence the standing of a company.
This lack of social acceptance is now a growing problem for the mining sector in particular. Whereas in years gone by the technical achievements of the mining industry often drew universal admiration, mining’s association with interference in the natural environment, in particular, has now given it a bad image. And this applies equally to raw materials extraction above and below ground. The question we are therefore asking is: What kind of efforts need to be taken to ensure public acceptance of mineral extraction projects over the entire mining lifecycle?
The strength of public opinion can sometimes mean that technical bodies and licensing authorities will attach particularly stringent requirements to applications for approval procedures and may even call into question authorisations that have already been granted. We will therefore be examining various procedural and nature protection issues that have a role to play in this area. We will also be taking a look at Russia, where they are working on a plan to develop regulatory instruments for dealing with residues from coal-fired power plants.
However, the SLO is not just about the methods used for active raw materials extraction and processing but also relates to issues such as how to manage the legacies of the mining industry in a post-mining environment. This assumes particular importance in the case of abandoned mining infrastructure, where installations that formed part of the old mining industry operated under conditions that were quite different from those we know today. The Department for Mining and Energy at the Arnsberg District Government is therefore working on ways to improve the projection of geological deposits in the Ruhr coalfield as part of its risk management plan for abandoned mining infrastructure.
Issue number 4 of the magazine traditionally includes a retrospective look at the German lignite industry over the preceding twelve months. This year’s contribution uses the example of the national coal phase-out decision to illustrate the kind of impact that the loss of the Social Licence to Operate can have on the industry.
With my best regards
Dipl.-Ing. Andreas-Peter Sitte
Chief Editor Mining Report Glückauf, Essen