This thesis examines the relationships between mining companies and the communities affected by their operations. It explores issues of relational justice in the way parties articulate and negotiate their interests with each other. This research investigates the nature of these relationships and develops a framework to assist in the identification of factors that enhance or hinder greater fairness in the relational processes.
While mining companies are increasingly investing in strategies both to address the socio-environmental impacts and maximise the opportunity for mutually beneficial relationships with affected communities, these relationships still appear to be characterised by injustice. Yet, from a theoretical standpoint, it remains unclear what it is meant by relational justice in the context of these relationships, and how it can be investigated empirically.
This research addresses this gap by investigating the relationships between the people of Juruti, a municipality located in the Brazilian Amazon, and Alcoa, a multinational mining company that operates a large bauxite mine in the region. Ethnographic methods were applied so that the mechanisms, structures and characteristics of how parties communicate and interact with each other, and of how Juruti people are socially organised to engage with the company could be explored. Using an interdisciplinary approach, this thesis proposes a conceptual framework to explore relational justice in the mining context. The Juruti-Alcoa relationship was analysed using a negotiation lens, while fairness was examined from the perspective of the ‘voice’, ‘capabilities’, and ‘trust’ of affected individuals.
As this research indicates, relational injustices in the Juruti case are mainly driven by the difficulties that community people have in critically and strategically engaging about mining-related issues, and performing under the company’s required procedures. The practical implications of enhancing fairness in the Juruti-Alcoa relationship are presented,and methodological considerations for approaching and exploring relational justice in the context of community-company relationships are also discussed.
This thesis contributes to the existing knowledge about the nature and morphology of community-company relationships and its embedded dynamics of fairness. It also advances current understandings about mining in the Brazilian Amazon, negotiation and community-engagement practice, community empowerment, and the means by which issues of social justice can be explored in the context of natural resource management.