Privately-commissioned public inquiry processes in large-scale mining projects

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Supervisor – Professor Deanna Kempd.kemp@smi.uq.edu.au

This PhD project is part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant based out of UQ on privately-commissioned public inquiry processes in large-scale mining projects. These types of inquiries have been commissioned and sponsored by global extractive companies on a voluntary basis following public allegations of environmental impacts and human rights abuses, including impacts on Indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights. This particular type of inquiry holds potential for breakthrough research on deep-seated issues, but little is known about their governance and whether they actually drive industry change. 

This ARC Linkage Project will investigate the value of these inquiries for different stakeholder groups, and draw lessons for future inquiries. The research is a multi-party collaboration between UQ, Australian National University (ANU), Denver-based global mining giant, Newmont Corporation, and international non-government organisation, RESOLVE, based in Washington DC.

The research question motivating this project is: How can privately-commissioned inquiries drive meaningful change in the global extractives sector? The project will focus on understanding which structures and procedural approaches generate which types of change across different stakeholder groups. The project aims to undertake comparative analysis between government-commissioned and company-commissioned inquiries, examination of different types of privately-commissioned inquiries and case studies, and the production of guidelines, principles or pre-conditions that may assist different parties to decide how to initiate, invest in or engage in these processes.

The Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) is seeking a PhD student to conduct and coordinate some of this work. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to contribute to scholarly publications and a public set of end-user focused outputs – such as a set of guidelines or recommendations as to how the industry, and other stakeholders, might approach these inquiries in the future. The student will be integrated in to the project team and will focus on defined and achievable components of the project including: (i) surfacing lessons from public commission of inquiry, and (ii) analysing industry case studies. This will offer the student a unique opportunity to develop their skills in applied, industry-facing, integrated mixed methods research with a team of leading global experts and practitioners.

The candidate will benefit from the applied research environment at UQ’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) in the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI), a world-leading research institute. They will also collaborate with the Institute of Social Science Research (ISSR) as well as the applied work of industrial inquiry practitioner and disaster scholar Andrew Hopkins from the Australian National University’s (ANU) College of Arts and Social Sciences. 

The research will be based at CSRM. The Centre focuses on the social, cultural, economic and political challenges that occur when change is brought about by mineral resource extraction and contributes to industry change through independent research, teaching and by convening and participating in multi-stakeholder dialogue processes. The student will work closely with the CSRM research team, which consists of leading global experts in mining and resettlement, community relations, governance, agreements, development, cultural heritage, human rights, Indigenous peoples, mine closure, conflict and gender. They will be working in a strong and diverse student community of PhD and HDR students from across the world, with an opportunity to collaborate with other SMI Centres and the wider University.

Preferred educational background

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant's previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

A working knowledge of the extractives industry and/or the global extractives sector would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of social sciences and applied research methods and the potential for scholastic success.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 3, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Apply now