Our expertise

SMI-CSRM’s staff and students have in-depth knowledge of the mining and metals sector, at corporate and operational levels. Our multi-disciplinary orientation, our position within UQ, and our ability to conduct leading edge social science research, sets us apart.

Communities

SMI-CSRM’s research with local communities spans a wide range of issue and geographic areas. Our researchers are leading, highly sought after, applied social scientists who work with community stakeholders to understand the local experience of mine-related activities. The SMI-CSRM team has extensive experience in working at the interface between mining, government and local communities – in local villages, along infrastructure corridors and on-site at some of the most challenging mining operations world-wide. SMI-CSRM’s researchers are experts at engaging in multi-disciplinary teams, and working cross-culturally and collaboratively with local universities, consultancies and community organisations.

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Governance

Governance arrangements in the resources and extractives industries are increasingly complex. Stakeholders from across the spectrum are demanding more effective regulatory mechanisms at all levels: international financers, bilateral agencies, national governments and sub-national governments. Transparency, accountability and multi-stakeholder initiatives are on the rise. SMI-CSRM’s research is at the cutting edge of this global policy agenda. Our team is actively engaging in international review processes that ensure voluntary initiatives, such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and certification schemes, lead to improvements in mining industry policy and practice literature.

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Agreements

Researchers at SMI-CSRM examine mining-related agreements in their multiple forms. Since the centre was established in 2001, SMI-CSRM has evaluated the design and implementation of major mining project agreements between companies and the state, host regions and local communities. Our team also conducts specialist research involving indigenous peoples and complex negotiation processes. As recognised leaders in this field of applied research, SMI-CSRM has contributed to the development of leading practice guidelines through agencies such as the World Bank, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the International Council for Minerals and Metals (ICMM).

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Development

Mining’s role in human and economic development is the subject of intense debate. Can the industry contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? Are so-called development enclaves sustainable, or indeed scalable? Do the benefits to the nation outweigh the costs to local people and the environment? What is a fair trade-off? How should mining companies and governments be thinking about these questions? SMI-CSRM is involved in examining some of the industry’s most difficult development dilemmas both internationally and in Australia. The Centre’s researchers are engaged in facilitating change at global, national, regional and community levels.  

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Cultural heritage

Cultural heritage is fundamental to community identity and the landscapes where resource development occurs. Resource development has the potential to transform different forms of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. While various international safeguards exist to protect cultural heritage, mining companies often struggle to implement these standards. There exists great potential among mining companies to strengthen, promote, and enhance cultural heritage in the areas where they work; and this can be critical for social stability. SMI-CSRM conducts leading research and applied work on cultural heritage management, providing policy advice and practical guidance for communities, companies and governments.

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Resettlement

CSRM is the leading research institution worldwide for mining and resettlement issues. The SMI-CSRM team has established a flagship Mining, Resettlement and Livelihoods – Research and Practice Consortium with core funding from the University of Queensland and five industry partners – (Newcrest, Newmont, Anglo American, Rio Tinto, and MMG) to examine the causes and patterns of mining induced displacement, and to understand how financers, governments, companies and local communities can contribute to improving safeguards for affected people. Our team is investing in key international collaborations with the International Network on Displacement Network (INDR), University of Surrey, University of Nottingham and the University of Groningen.

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ASM

SMI-CSRM is engaged with many of the complex issues that accompany artisanal and small scale mining (ASM), including of governance, livelihoods and gender. We have delivered training and conducted research in Asia and Latin America, and in Africa where ASM’s potential to contribute to poverty alleviation has been recognised by the African Mining Vision.  We are working on a European Union (EU) funded project on the human rights dimensions of artisanal gold mining in Burkina Faso. Our research and training funded by the Tiffany and Co Foundation focusses on the lives and livelihoods of women working across the gemstone mining value chain in Madagascar and Sri Lanka. 

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Human rights

When the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011, the corporate duty to ‘respect’ human rights became a major focal point. Drawing on SMI-CSRM’s 15 years of applied research in the global mining sector, our researchers are involved in human rights issues as they relate to mining’s impact on land, water and culture, with a particular focus on indigenous and tribal peoples. SMI-CSRM is experienced in conducting collaborative research projects with human rights organisations, such as the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB). The Centre is increasingly involved in conducting independent reviews on specific issues, such as free prior and informed consent (FPIC), artisanal and small-scale mining and project-level non-judicial grievance mechanisms.

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Indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples throughout the world have complex relationships with the mining industry. They often experience mining-induced harm due to poor industry practices and lack of recognition of their collective and individual rights. In some cases, significant economic benefits have also been generated via employment, enterprise development and benefit sharing. SMI-CSRM has worked to understand the range of issues facing indigenous peoples in mining contexts in Australia, Asia, North and South America, the Pacific and the Arctic. Of particular focus are issues relating to recruitment, employment, training, agreement negotiation and governance, enterprise development, cultural heritage protection, livelihoods, environmental monitoring, gender, Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and inclusive engagement.

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Mine closure

Many mining companies find themselves approaching mine closure without clear government or regulatory guidelines on the social dimensions of closure. Existing international standards provide limited guidance, and most companies lack strong standards or internal guidelines to support business units moving through social closure. Governments and communities are equally concerned about the prospect of operations closing and being handed back to the public under these circumstances. The knowledge base on the social aspects of mine closure remains shallow. To address this gap, SMI-CSRM is developing new research agendas around mine closure, with specific attention on the ways that mining agreements with local project stakeholders shape closure outcomes.

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Conflict

Conflict is steadily emerging as a major research and policy agenda in the global mining industry. Researchers from SMI-CSRM, in collaboration with scholars from Clark and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, have lead cutting edge research in this arena. Our work shows the high costs borne by mining companies, governments and local communities when industrial practices are poor and regulatory safeguards fail. SMI-CSRM’s research agenda focuses on the implications of conflict in mining regions and communities. In addition to our international program of research in countries like Peru, PNG, and Mongolia, SMI-CSRM is actively involved in examining land use conflict in rural and regional Australia, where mining, energy and agricultural industries compete.

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Gender

Gender is a cross-cutting research theme for SMI-CSRM. We have undertaken qualitative and quantitative studies of women in the mining workforce, and a range of research related the gendered impacts of mining in indigenous, developing and developed-world contexts. We have authored guidance on integrating gender considerations into community, operational, management and regulatory processes with a range of partners, from NGOs including Oxfam, to multinational mining corporations including Rio Tinto, and with development agencies including the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the World Bank Group.

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