The Impact of Local Participation on Community Support for Natural Resource Management

The Case of Mining in Northern Canada and Northern Sweden


Sverker C. Jagers,
Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg

Simon Matti*,
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Lulea University of Technology

Greg Poelzer,
Professor, The School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan

Stan Yu
Research Associate, The International Centre for Northern Governance and Development, University of Saskatchewan


Due to its oftentimes complex, contested, and multi-scale character, natural resource management (NRM) tends to be a challenging task that has been met with various political approaches in order to meet demands for legitimacy. One approach to enhancing the legitimacy of NRM that has gained increased attention within the academic literature is the adoption of local participatory democracy in decision-making processes. Advocates of participatory democracy in NRM propose that local participation achieves the following outcomes: increased legitimacy because it ensures that local needs and priorities are successfully met; decision-making based on more complete information, which helps avoid unexpected negative outcomes; and a sense of belonging and influence among the public, leading to increased perceptions of support and partnership, as opposed to NRM which is imposed on the community. Nevertheless, comprehensive empirical studies that document how public participation affects legitimacy remain rare. Using 2015 data collected on people’s attitudes towards mining in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, and Norrbotten and Västerbotten counties, Sweden, this paper empirically assesses whether and how perceptions of local participation affect the legitimacy of mining development. In turn, this paper finds that perceived public participation does affect the public’s propensity to support mining development and this propensity is mediated by people’s perceptions of the interests present in the decision-making process, their normative beliefs concerning which actors should be allowed to participate in the decision-making process, and certain individual-level and contextual-level factors.

Keywords: legitimacy; Natural Resource Management; input legitimacy; output legitimacy; throughput legitimacy; northern communities; local participation; northern canada; northern sweden; mining