Under what conditions do mining projects trigger public opposition?
Public opposition to mining has become more visible since the early 1990s in Chile, yet not all mining projects become a flashpoint for mobilization. Building on the concept of defensive mobilization, I argue that 1) opposition is more likely when a project poses a threat, or is perceived as posing a threat, for some members of a community, and 2) threats linked to land and water in agrarian and indigenous communities are especially salient for cases of opposition to mining, taking into account other important factors like project characteristics, political opportunities, and local associational capacity.
To test these hypotheses, I constructed a data set of all major mining projects submitted for environmental licensing since the start of implementation of environmental impact assessments in Chile. The results, based on binary
logistic regression, confirm that projects potentially posing threats to agrarian and indigenous communities have been more likely to lead to opposition. Community challenges have also been more likely for projects majority owned by non-Chilean companies. About four out of every ten proposed projects face opposition and only a handful of projects have ever been definitively rejected at the approval stage, even as projects that are found to violate regulations are increasingly fined and challenged in court as well as facing protests and public scrutiny.
An article based on this research is forthcoming at the Sociology of Development.