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Pathways to Sustainability in Mining: Coping with Conflicts

Research project Low-carbon technologies are increasing demand for minerals. Within the EU, the mineral potential is considered underutilized, while mining companies are not considered to take sufficient responsibility. Mining establishments raise the question of what constitutes sustainable development and plans for new mines often lead to conflicts. In this project, we investigate when mining establishments lead to conflict, why conflicts escalate and how they can be handled in an efficient and legitimate way.

Sweden is an important mining country, but a number of mining conflicts have arisen in recent years. Dialogue and consultation are often assumed to be the solution without science supporting this. The aim of this project is to contribute to sustainable, efficient and legitimate management of mineral resources by identifying what the major sustainability issues are and what policy instruments are needed for trade-offs and choices. The project is based on a comparative research approach where four different case studies in Sweden are analyzed using both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Head of project

Anna Zachrisson
Associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

2019-01-01 2021-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Political Science

Research area

Political science

External funding


Project description

Social science research on mining is growing steadily, but knowledge of political and institutional aspects is fragmented and mainly concerns developing countries. Few studies investigate the interactions between local actors, mining companies and the state. An important knowledge gap concerns how mining resistance arises and is organized, and how it is connected with place perceptions. Few studies combine quantitative and qualitative methods and more comparative studies are needed over longer periods of time.

The project is based on an interdisciplinary theoretical framework emphasizing that there are many competing approaches to sustainable development, which affect the choices made at different levels. But certain views are often dominant and contribute to the room for maneuver being curtailed. If the process is instead opened up for more perspectives, it is possible to find completely new ways forward. The framework further emphasizes the importance of studying how institutions, strategies and practices affect which views become visible and how the actors who represent different views choose to act. To complement the framework, we will also use literature on the significance of the place, social movements and deliberation.

A comparative research approach is the basis for the project with four Swedish case studies. The cases will represent different degrees of conflict and conflict management strategies (both deliberative and confrontational), as well as different phases of mining and different local contexts with varying degrees of social capital, economic success, ecological conditions and historical experiences of mines.

The project contributes to sustainable development by highlighting how this controversial concept is translated into practice in mining. In addition, the project will develop an understanding of how different governance mechanisms such as different forms of deliberation (dialogue processes, consultations, etc.) can be used to manage conflicts.

External funding

Latest update: 2021-03-25