WS10: Sustainable Development and Extractive Industries

Publicerad: 8 oktober 2018


Gregory Poelzer (Luleå University of Technology):
Anna Zachrisson (Umeå University)

The extractive industries – oil, gas, and mining – produce essential inputs (energy, metals, and minerals) for the global economy. Demand for these inputs is estimated to increase in the future, especially as the living standard in many developing countries increases. Furthermore, the extractive industries are vital for the current transition towards a carbon-neutral society, given that many new green technologies are dependent on minerals. In recent decades, the concern about the short- and long-term impacts on society from the extraction of nonrenewable resources has gained enhanced interest. Not least considering recent technological developments, which have made shale gas and oil economically accessible. Environmental concerns for the shale operations have been raised, and in particular by the role of fracking. Gas leakage, contamination and overuse of water, earthquakes, and land degradation have been reported as the most important environmental detriments.

Research that addresses how the extraction of nonrenewable resources can be conducted in a sustainable way is therefore important. The concept of sustainability is often divided into three pillars – economic, environmental, and social – all of which need to be addressed in order to achieve sustainability. Extractive industries can contribute significantly to a country’s economic development and offer opportunities for foreign investment and private sector development. Extractive industries generate government revenues and employment for the local economy, often in depressed and remote areas. However, they can also aggravate or cause serious environmental, health, and social problems, including conflicts with local actors. For example, land use conflicts frequently arise because the extractive regions are commonly highly valued natural areas, often populated by indigenous people. The extraction industries thus face a number of social challenges in the local community that are important to consider.

Scientific knowledge is important for the development of a sustainable extractive industry. This NESS working group will therefore focus on research that addresses sustainable development in this industry. Comparative studies of experiences from different countries, different measures that are being taken to promote sustainability, and their actual effects are especially welcome. Examples of questions to be addressed in local/regional/ national as well as comparative studies are: How has the extractive industries up until today addressed issues of sustainability related to their operations? To what extent and in what way are other relevant actors activated to achieve sustainability? How does sustainability relate to the acceptability of extractive industries, particularly in different contexts?

We look forward to good discussions of papers from a wide spectrum of the social sciences, with local, regional as well as national and even global perspectives of sustainability issues of the extractive industries. Studies that address all forms of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – in extractive industries are more than welcome.