ELLA Policy Brief: From Expropriation to Social Licence: Accessing Land for Extractive Industries

ELLA is the Evidence and Lessons from Latin America Programme


Gaining access to land with mineral and hydrocarbon resources can present a significant challenge. Experiences from Latin America show that direct land expropriation has been abandoned in favour of social licence, meaning securing community or individual agreement about the use of land for extractive activities. This Brief describes the key factors that have enabled this transformation, and provides examples to illustrate the main social licence strategies in use in Latin America. Finally, the Brief identifies key lessons from policy and practice that will be useful for other regions facing similar challenges.

Key Lessons:

•Because land expropriation is no longer seen as a viable option, government-driven processes to establish collective or individual land rights in rural areas are a crucial first step for ultimately securing social licence. From there, Latin American shows a variety of social licence strategies that are working, reducing conflict and bringing long-term stability to extractive projects.

•When states and responsible corporations develop compensatory mechanisms to address land degradation and social and environmental impacts, reliable, long-term access to resources is more likely.

•While land remediation is often enforced in extractive industry regulations, giving back land freely to its former owners or local communities is a socially responsible corporate practice that can help to improve the image of a company, and the extractive industry sector in general.


Damonte, G. ELLA Policy Brief: From Expropriation to Social Licence: Accessing Land for Extractive Industries. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2012) 6 pp.

Published 1 January 2012