Navigating the local costs and benefits of modern mineral mines: the role of non-regulatory agreements

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


This thesis explores natural resource development at the local level from the perspective of resource peripheries in the United States. Using three case studies--two in Montana and one in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan--this study combines qualitative mixed-methods with on-the-ground experience to explore the dynamics of the costs and benefits of extractive industries in the context of short-duration, high-impact underground mines. Research questions focused on the specific concerns and priorities in each place and the novel tools communities are using to address both short-term impacts and long-term economic development. The methodology relied on in-person, semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, participant observation, and document and policy analysis. Results reveal that rural places share similar concerns tied to these projects, although multiple stakeholder groups often have divergent ideas and priorities. Non-regulatory agreements show promise as a tool for stakeholder groups to navigate the balancing act of mining projects, but the initiatives found in these agreements are often affected by classic dilemmas facing resource peripheries as well as individual places' institutional and regulatory context. Findings also suggest that communities are granted a limited window of opportunity to maximize their negotiating power in the social license to operate process. Ultimately, non-regulatory agreements should be tailored to fill regulatory gaps and, in the best cases, are able to focus on delivering lasting economic benefits from short-term mining developments.




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