Contesting the social license to operate: Competing visions and community exclusion on the Bolivian Altiplano

Riley Mulhern, Margaret Mulhern, Tom Perreault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The concept of a Social License to Operate (SLO) has increasingly been employed in the extractive industries worldwide as a measure of social acceptance and legitimacy, particularly among those local communities most impacted by extractive activities. This study uses the SLO framework to critically evaluate ongoing conflict regarding the social and environmental impacts of the Kori Chaca gold mine in Oruro, Bolivia. Contrasting claims regarding these impacts made by the mining company and the nearest downstream community were analyzed as indicators of each party's perception of SLO. Discrepancies in how these stakeholders understand SLO reveal ways in which the industry uses the concept to legitimize its operations without ensuring genuine participation or dialogue with impacted communities. The community's understanding of SLO was based on the fair distribution of costs and benefits related to the mining project. By contrast, the company's perception of SLO was based on demonstrating the minimum benefit deemed sufficient to meet international sustainability standards. The case of Kori Chaca demonstrates how formal adherence to the principles of SLO can still result in the privileging of company-defined objectives while the unique, place-based concerns of local communities remain overlooked.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100803
JournalExtractive Industries and Society
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Bolivia
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Social license to operate
  • community conflict
  • sustainable mining

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Economic Geology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Contesting the social license to operate: Competing visions and community exclusion on the Bolivian Altiplano'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this