Exploring the governance of post-mining restoration in Scotland in the demise of the opencast coal industry and finding the way forward

  • Huyen Le

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

Despite the contributions to economic and social development, mining causes environmental degradation that can make significant and long-term impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity and human health and well-being. The impacts of mining projects on the surrounding environment have led to the tension between mining companies and local communities. Given the importance of community relations in mining companies’ business, gaining a ‘social licence to operate’ from local communities has increasingly become important for mining companies, which has driven them to undertake good restoration, an activity associated with mine closure.

The relationship, including the inherent tension among the three main actors in the mining sector (the mining company, the government and local communities) influences the mining company’s implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Since EIA is part of mine closure planning which includes restoration, the research seeks to find out whether there is a similar influence of such relationship on the mining company’s implementation of restoration. Due to the nonexistence of unique restoration scheme for mining projects and the fixed restoration budget for each mining project, the research assumes the likely occurrence of the inherent tension among the three main actors during mine closure planning and aims to explore such tension. Given the possible involvement of other stakeholders in mine closure planning in addition to the three main actors, the research aims to explore the tensions among the stakeholders involved during the process. Given the usual marginalised status of local communities in the decision making of mining projects, the research also seeks to understand how such status is demonstrated during mine closure planning and the potentially resulting dissatisfaction of local communities with the restoration outcomes.

The research assumes that since every stakeholder will attempt to influence mine closure planning to satisfy their interests in restoration outcomes within the fixed restoration budget, some stakeholders will have to compromise their interests. With such assumption, the research seeks to explore the conditions under which the stakeholders act for the achievement of the restoration outcomes that satisfy most of the interests of the stakeholders involved. Given the logic of collective action, the research seeks to explore the conditions under which the stakeholders involved in mine closure planning have incentives to act for the achievement of the common goal that satisfies most of the interests of the stakeholders involved.

The research uses the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework as the conceptual framework for the research and the concept of ‘collaborative governance’ to complement the framework. The research utilises the case study method and systematic combining as the case study approach to analyse the stakeholders’ interactions during the closure planning of three opencast coal sites in East Ayrshire, Scotland. With the focus on the key interactions of the stakeholders, the research pays attention to the EIA process and the period since the liquidation of the previous operators until April 2018 when the restoration works for two projects were finished and those for one project were almost finished.The main findings of the research include: (i) the project context shapes the stakeholders’ interests and actions in mine closure planning, which leads to conflicts of interest and tensions during the process; (ii) the interests and actions of the key stakeholders determine the final outcomes/restoration outcomes which may be unsatisfying to local communities; (iii) strong enforcement of the government and strong influence of empowered local communities make the mining company more responsible in their performance, a responsible mining company’s performance is influenced by their obtainment and maintenance of an SLO from local communities, and strong influence of empowered local communities makes the government more determined to deal with restoration. The research also found some facilitating and discouraging conditions for collaborative governance in mine closure planning and the local government’s leadership being the most important condition that influences the achievement of the common goal that satisfies most of the interests of the stakeholders involved. Given the later finding, the researcher recommends that leadership should be the focus of the local governments that face premature mine closures during mine closure planning and a future research using the ‘Most Different Systems Design’ to select cases should be undertaken to test the finding. Since the research also found that the local government’s leadership played a more decisive role in influencing the mining company’s performance than the mining company’s obtainment and maintenance of an SLO from the local communities directly affected by two of the cases, the situation is recommended to be investigated in the case(s) in developing countries.
Date of Award2018
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Dundee
SupervisorXuanli Liao (Supervisor) & Chris Spray (Supervisor)

Cite this

Exploring the governance of post-mining restoration in Scotland in the demise of the opencast coal industry and finding the way forward
Le, H. (Author). 2018

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy