A significant body of literature exists about the effects and impacts of mining on local communities. Less well understood are the internal dynamics and decision pathways within companies for handling grievances and disputes. As a first step towards addressing this knowledge gap, the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) at The University of Queensland‟s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) and the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative (CSRI) at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government agreed to collaborate on an exploratory research project. The primary aim of this research was to build knowledge about the way mining companies function internally to handle community grievances and community-company disputes. The research covered a full range of disputes, from day-to-day problems through to those that become high-profile legal cases and/or feature in media campaigns.
Based on in-depth interviews with extractives company staff as well as experts closely familiar with their operations, this report brings out some fascinating patterns of experience that convincingly illustrate a range of barriers and opportunities when it comes to companies’ own ability to improve their conflict management. Their research shows that the effectiveness of company-level grievance processes depends necessarily on a range of procedural, structural, staffing and cultural factors internal to the company, quite apart from those outside its control. Sharing this kind of learning is important if companies are to accelerate the process of finding viable, practical approaches to resolving disputes earlier and more effectively.