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The concept of earning a 'social licence to operate' (SLO) emerged in the mining industry in the 1990s as one important way in which the social dimensions of mineral development activities can be considered and addressed by mining governance actors. It implies that local communities have issued their support for a mining project that is located proximate to them and that this support is broad-based and ongoing. Where a SLO is not issued by local communities, the potential for financial, regulatory, and reputational costs for mining companies significantly increases, and in some instances projects may become unable or unviable to advance. While valuable research has begun to emerge on the SLO, there remain some notable research gaps. In particular, a need for additional empirical and theoretical research that uncovers those factors leading to the issuance (or non-issuance) of a SLO at different mining operations has been identified. Such research is needed in order to develop an understanding of which mining governance models function best and in what combination, and how model effectiveness varies through differing social, political, and economic contexts. Research of this type has important implications for the sustainable development of global mineral resources, as it can help identify ways in which desirable mining-community outcomes can be achieved and local conflict avoided. In an effort to address this research gap, this thesis sought to explore the governance dimensions of SLO and the obstacles and opportunities associated with its effective implementation in the mining industry. This thesis is presented in manuscript format, but has been prepared in such a way as to comprise a conceptual whole. Introductory and methodological chapters are first presented, followed by four manuscripts of publication quality and length. Concluding remarks and supplementary research materials are provided at the end of the thesis. The research conducted for this thesis was qualitative in nature and employed comparative case study methodologies, key informant interviewing, participant observation, and a comprehensive literature review. In the manuscripts that follow, the origins of the SLO concept are explored from the perspective of governance and sustainability theories, and the complex role of state, market, civil society, and hybrid governance and institutional arrangements in shaping SLO outcomes are reviewed. The thesis then presents a complex systems-based analytic framework for assessing SLO determinants and outcomes in the mining industry and applies it to a case study of the Red Dog Mine in Alaska, USA. Following this, the results of a comparative case study analysis of four international mining operations (i.e. Red Dog Mine in Alaska, USA; Minto Mine in Yukon, Canada; the proposed Tambogrande Mine in Peru, and; the Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea) are presented, using the complex systems approach previously described. The thesis then discusses five `guiding principles' for establishing a SLO that emerged from the analysis, including: 1) context is key; 2) a social licence to operate is built on relationships; 3) sustainability is a dominant concern for communities; 4) local benefits provision and public participation play a crucial role; and 5) adaptability is needed to confront complexity. Refined conceptualizations of the SLO that emerged during the research are also explored and new definitions of SLO and a resilient SLO are presented. The thesis then describes a series of guidelines for SLO analysis and management in the mining industry, which mineral developers must address in an iterative manner. They include: 1) address SLO prerequisites; 2) analyze the SLO context; 3) overcome key SLO challenges; 4) build a meaningful SLO; and 5) ongoing monitoring and adaptive management. A discussion of research contributions, limitations, and future research needs is also provided at the end of this thesis.