Kate Taylor Smith – 2024 – Mining, monsters and mineral exploration: assessing social impacts through the lens of public risk perception


Mineral exploration is essential to provide the metals that we need for a low-carbon future. This exploration must be environmentally and socially responsible. Within the GREENPEG project we have conducted interviews in Norway and Ireland, with the aim of gaining in-depth understandings of local-community and individual perspectives on mineral exploration. Online and in-person surveys have also been carried out in Portugal and the UK. These studies highlight the importance of building company-community relationships as early as possible, of understanding social context and history and the value in trying to look at an exploration project from a community point-of-view. In these case studies, the exploration activities themselves were less of a worry than the concern they trigger about possible future mining. The growth and spread of this anxiety and fear, even from an early project stage, is the main social impact of exploration and can be extraordinarily stressful for individuals.  Here we consider these issues through the lenses of risk perception and monster theory, which we suggest may help with recognition, empathy and understanding of community concerns. Tackling these worries and reducing these negative impacts, which otherwise may stall or entirely halt the progress of a project, is critical for both companies and communities alike.


Kate Taylor Smith is a Research Fellow for the EU Horizon 2020 funded GREENPEG project in Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter. Kate has over 20 years’ experience working in research and education in academia in the UK and Iceland, covering three main themes: environmental and social best practice in mineral exploration, natural and man-made hazard and risk (assessment, perception, communication), and physical volcanology (explosive volcanism, outburst flooding, sedimentology and geomorphology of glacial and volcanic environments). Since 2017 Kate has been based at Camborne School of Mines in project management and research roles in EU Horizon2020-funded critical raw materials projects. Kate’s recent research has focussed on exploration, in particular ESG best practice guidance and frameworks, radiation risk and public perceptions of both exploration and mining in Europe. Kate has also co-directed two films about the UN Resource Management System and led development of the ‘Technology Metals for a Green Future’ MOOC.