The Civic Virtue of Developmentalism: On the Mining Industry's Political Licence to Develop Western Australia
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This paper examines the social licence to operate (SLO) of Western Australia’s (WA’s) mining industry in the context of the state’s ‘developmentalist’ agenda. We draw on the findings of a multi-disciplinary body of new research on the risks and challenges posed by WA’s mining industry for environmental, social and economic sustainability. We synthesise the findings of this work against the backdrop of the broader debates on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and resource governance. In light of the data presented, this paper takes issue with the mining sector’s SLO and its assessment of social and environmental impacts in WA for three inter-related reasons. A state government ideologically wedded to resource-led growth is seen to offer the resource sector a political licence to operate and to give insufficient attention to its potential social and environmental impacts. As a result, the resource sector can adopt a self-serving CSR agenda built on a limited win–win logic and operate with a ‘quasi social licence’ that is restricted to mere economic legitimacy. Overall, this paper problematises the political-cum-commercial construction and neoliberalisation of the SLO and raises questions about the impact of mining in WA.
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