By Shane Lasley
Mining News 

Pebble applies for social license

Five months prior to leading Pebble John Shively addressed Alaska miners on the requirements of acquiring a social license to operate


Last updated 6/29/2008 at Noon

During John Shively's 17 years working for the NANA Regional Corp., he was involved with the acquisition of land selection rights for the zinc property where the Red Dog Mine is currently located. He and other NANA leaders went on to permit and develop - in partnership with Teck Cominco - the world's largest zinc mine.

Drawing on Shively's experience, the Alaska Miners Association invited him to speak to attendees at the 2007 Alaska Miners Association annual mining conference in November on the subject of a social license to operate.

Shively talked about a social license as it relates to rural areas of Alaska.

The reason for this is "rural Alaska is where I have the most experience and is where most, if not all, new mines will be developed. Keeping these related issues in mind is very important to understanding what a social license is," he explained.

Five months after addressing conference attendees on social license requirements, Shively took the helm of the partnership seeking to development the giant Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum project in Southwest Alaska and with it, the challenge of licensing the most controversial proposed mine in the state.

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Pebble social license application

The Pebble CEO told Mining News June 22 that protecting the Pebble region's subsistence hunting and fishing is an important issue to him, personally.

Protecting the fish is the primary concern of developing a mine at Pebble, and it will not happen unless it can be done in a way that will protect them. Beyond that, to prevent putting a strain on the subsistence resources, the Pebble Partnership has a policy that anyone coming in to work at the project from outside the region is not allowed to hunt or fish. This policy is in place for the exploration program and will continue throughout the project.

If there is no way to develop a mine at Pebble while protecting the fish, then there will be no project, Shively said.

Local-hire policies are in place at Pebble, but Shively said he believes Pebble Partnership Ltd. can do more. In the short term, the company is reviewing manpower needs for the project as well as the manpower available in the region. The company plans to use this information to develop a program for this winter to train additional residents for positions needed at the project. For the long term, Shively said a mine at Pebble would employ around 1,000 people, and provide training and scholarship programs to help fill as many positions as possible with people from the surrounding communities.

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According to Shively, the Pebble Partnership currently contracts with four local Native corporations and if the project is developed into a mine, it will contribute to the tax bases of at least three of the corporations. The Partnership is working with local governments on tax issues, but it will need to define the proposed project before the tax base's structure can be determined.

Bigger than any document

Shively told AMA conference attendees in November that a social license to operate is not a document you receive nor does it have its own public process, but could be the most important license a mining company receives, and it will influence the outcome of any public process needed to permit a mine.

What the license does involve is the gaining of local support for a project through personal and community values. Shively pointed out that in the 21st century, this is as important as any other phase of mine development.

Subsistence hunting and fishing are key issues that must be addressed in order to be granted a social license in rural Alaska. Recruitment and training of local residents and the use of local businesses and Native corporations as contractors also are important steps to being licensed. Working with local entities and creating a tax base are two additional license requirements. Shively also advises that when gathering baseline data, gather valuable traditional knowledge of the people who have lived off the land for generations.

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According to Shively, a company may never know for sure if it has been socially licensed, but the less local commotion it encounters, the more likely it has acquired the license.

"The one thing I do know, if there is no social license, it is quite likely that any new development will not be able to go forward," he added.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

Over his more than 11 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (907) 726-1095


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