The 2nd MIREU SLO Workshop with the theme ‘SLO and Regional Development Perspectives’ took place in Leoben, Austria on 24-25 October 2018. This workshop was the second in a series of stakeholder workshops organised in the MIREU project. The main objective of this workshop was to explore the linkages between social license to operate (SLO) and regional development.

The second day of the workshop was concluded with four parallel breakout sessions on topics related to specific regional questions. One of these topics was ‘Mining and Misunderstandings’, which refers to the misunderstandings that often arise in the communication between the parties involved in mining projects.

Breakout Discussion

Nowadays, the raw materials sector is carefully examined not only by the authorities, but also by the general public. Many misunderstandings often ensue from the communication between different parties - they could even derive from the raw materials sector itself. These misunderstandings can many times hinder the development of the raw materials sector.

The discussion in this session mainly focused on what causes the initial misunderstandings; what further escalates the situation; how to link this phenomenon to SLO; and how to use this acknowledgement to improve the current situation and contribute to the regional development.

The participants perceived that the cause of many misunderstandings, which derive from the raw materials sector itself, usually are due to oversimplification during the communication and information dissemination and a general lack of transparency. The general public, on the other hand, usually tend to have outdated information and a lack of knowledge about the raw materials sector, for example concerning modern mining technologies. Another factor that causes misunderstandings is the general perception that people usually have of mining. People tend to perceive the raw materials sector as something dirty and they do not necessarily see the added value of this sector to the general development of the region. Factors that further escalate a situation of misunderstandings constitute, according to the participants, the different parties’ motives, values and priorities, which are further exacerbated by pressure from unions, interest groups and political parties. The disinterest of the general public in available information and relevant issues can also contribute to an escalated situation.

The question relevant for this session is thus, how does this phenomenon link to SLO? The participants found that education for the general public on raw materials and the raw materials sector is of great importance to avoid misunderstandings and to increase their knowledge and approval of the sector. This awareness-rising could be done by increasing people’s knowledge of the presence of raw materials in everyday products and by labelling products with their raw materials content. It is also important to inform people of the very high environmental and social standards that European companies mining raw materials are operating under due to rather strict legislations.

The final question is then how to use the acknowledgement to improve the current situation and contribute to the regional development? The participants found it important that mining companies mine locally at the highest possible standard and that also secondary raw materials recovery and production is done at a local level. In addition, the general awareness of the consumption of raw materials should increase.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 776811 — H2020-SC5-2017.