Mineral Economics

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 153–165 | Cite as

Towards a sustainable development licence to operate for the extractive sector

  • Antonio PedroEmail author
  • Elias T. Ayuk
  • Christina Bodouroglou
  • Ben Milligan
  • Paul Ekins
  • Bruno Oberle
Original Paper


The extractive sector now holds an even more predominant position for national economies following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. The sector can make significant contributions to the achievement of a large number of these Goals. Managing extractive resources has always presented a major challenge for many countries worldwide, but especially in the developing world. This paper documents the shortcomings of the existing governance architecture. It builds on the ‘social licence to operate’ and draws from its limitations to propose a new framework called the ‘sustainable development licence to operate’. The latter is a holistic multi-level and multi-stakeholder governance framework aimed at enhancing the contribution of the mining sector to sustainable development. It is not intended to function as a licence in the regulatory sense. The underlying principles, policy options and best practices that form the basis of the proposed framework are outlined in the paper. This analysis should be viewed as a starting point, in recognition that the development of a robust sustainable development licence to operate depends on an open and inclusive approach to populating its normative content.


Extractive sector Mining Governance Resource curse Sustainable development goals Social licence to operate Sustainable development licence to operate 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits use, duplication, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.United Nations Economic Commission for AfricaYaoundéCameroon
  2. 2.United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in AfricaAccraGhana
  3. 3.United Nations EnvironmentParisFrance
  4. 4.University College of London Institute for Sustainable ResourcesLondonUK
  5. 5.École Polytechnique Fédérale de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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