This dissertation explores the relationship between mining and positive peace. Positive peace emphasises a commitment to non-violent methods of resolving conflict. At any given time around the world, there are numerous examples of mining operations embroiled in controversy. Both the scholarly literature and the media emphasise the risks mining poses to people, communities and the environment on the one hand and the risks that community level conflict poses to the production and economic viability of mining operations on the other.
The mining industry as a whole has participated or otherwise contributed to the development of an array of practice guidelines, tool kits, voluntary initiatives and procedures specifically designed to respond to or prevent a range of mining-related conflicts. Even with the relatively recent introduction of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNHROHC, 2011), these initiatives have thus far proven insufficient for dealing with the challenges and issues presented at the community level. Despite the need for effective ways of handling mining company-community conflict, the potential of positive peace frameworks in addressing mining company-community conflict has been overlooked.
There are reasons for this oversight. The first is that, for many, the term ‘peace’ initially evokes something else entirely. Some equate peace with what it is not; as in war or bloody combat requiring UN intervention. Others associate peace with early 1970’s hippy culture invoking flowers, rainbows, free-love and marijuana. Still others view peace as an imprecise philosophical or religious aspiration; unattainable in this lifetime. The second is that ‘peace’ appears, to some, as providing no clear sense of direction or system of accountability. It does not have a pre-formulated action-plan, there is no robustly detailed voluntary initiative, no high commissioner, and there are no directly applicable regulations or laws.
Taking another look, however, reframing mining company-community conflicts through the lens of positive peace has advantages that not even human rights can offer. Once separated from associational baggage, ‘peace’ is a concept that most people understand. Even those in technical, scientific and financial roles know what it means, even if they are not initially sure how it might apply to their jobs. Since there is no scripted formula for enacting positive peace and no externally imposed sanctions for failing to achieve it, the intentional decision to pursue positive peace is by nature constructive (not punitive), voluntary (not regulated), and creative, with open-ended possibilities for its establishment and ongoing maintenance.
Drawing on the attributes of peace-focused thinking, this dissertation explores how the concept of positive peace can be brought into the conflict space between mining companies and communities. It does not suggest yet another strategy, toolkit or initiative, which would only serve to add further complexity how community concerns, and any related conflicts, are addressed by mining companies. It does not add to the mountain of binders, reports or paperwork Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professionals have to manage. Instead, its goal is to provide a different space for CSR professionals to approach, think about and conceptualise responding to community level conflicts using the tools they already have at their disposal. Simply put, this dissertation challenges CSR professionals, and by extension senior management at mining companies, to define the goals of CSR in terms of achieving conditions of positive peace, rather than the avoidance of conflict.
The dissertation proceeds in four steps. First, it proposes that mining companies could be included more intentionally in the discourse around the contributions businesses can make to societal conditions of positive peace. Second, it identifies a potentially useful body of theory within the peace studies literature that has developed around ‘positive peace’. Third, a conceptual model using Kuhn’s work on paradigms is developed to demonstrate how positive peace, as a paradigm, has potential to emphasise the quality of relationships between mining companies and communities that can lead to the achievement of productive conflict outcomes between the parties. Fourth, the dissertation then explores receptivity to ‘positive peace’ by testing it with CSR professionals in the mining sector. The dissertation concludes that the paradigm of positive peace indeed has potential to influence CSR strategies and lead to constructive conflict outcomes in the mining sector.