Exploring Contemporary Dynamics of Rural Communities and Resource Extraction: A Comparative Case Study Analysis of Mining Towns in the U.S.

Authors: Jackson Rose*, Montana State University, Julia Haggerty, Montana State University
Topics: Rural Geography, Natural Resources
Keywords: Rural, Mining, Natural Resource Extraction
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2020
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Agate A/B, Hyatt Regency, Third Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Today, rural communities in the United States frequently play host to large-scale mineral developments. In the last two decades, these developments are characterized by a trend towards low volume, high-grade sulfide deposits at depth that are ideal for a short-term underground mining operation. This trend results from both increasing social pressure around environmental contamination from mining, as well as the depletion of easier to access and larger volume deposits. Additionally, the mining industry continues to make technological gains that make identifying and extracting these deeper deposits more feasible.

This trend around mining projects is paralleled by a change in the way host communities are viewing benefit sharing from these developments. Increasingly, communities are negotiating non-regulatory agreements (variously termed 'community benefit agreements' (CBAs) or 'community development agreements' (CDAs) as a tool to increase their share of the resources and capital associated with the start-up and development phases of industrial projects. CBAs or CDAs may address impact mitigation but can also focus on a holistic view of the project development cycle and the long-term legacy of industrial projects. These agreements are an extension of a 'Social License to Operate' (SLO) or the permission given by a local community to an industry or company to conduct their operations.

This research looks at three rural mining communities in the United States with the goal of exploring two questions: 1) What form has the SLO mandate taken around these contemporary mining developments 2) Do these non-regulatory agreements show potential to affect community development outcomes?

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