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Mining the communicative flow: Communication and social learning in the reclamation of the ‘Vista Coal Mine’ project in Alberta, Canada Open Access


Other title
Coal Mining
Social Learning
Social Networks
Environmental Policy
Communication Infrastructure Theory
Mixed Methods
Network Analysis
Deliberative Processes
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Copp, Cassandra Joanna
Supervisor and department
Caine, Ken (Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Braun, Robyn (Sociology)
Parkins, John (Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology)
Caine, Ken (Sociology)
Kahane, David (Political Science)
Department of Sociology
Social Structure & Policy
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Arts
Degree level
In the development and approval of new extractive resource industry projects in or close to communities, it is necessary to explore if and how communication and social networks surrounding these projects offer a platform for collaborative debate and knowledge formation. In doing so, we can better understand how these networks enable or constrain the flow of information, and subsequently deliberative processes, in the context of provincial environmental policy landscapes. Therefore, I ask “how does the flow of communication, surrounding environmental policy, in relation to land reclamation influence the deliberative processes of communities at the grassroots level?”. This study focuses on the Vista Coal Mine Project, located in Hinton, Alberta, Canada. This study employs a mixed-methods approach, including a media content analysis of 178 documents, seven key informant and six general public interviews, and 52 completed household surveys to: analyze the processes by which communication occurs between industry, government, and community in the context of provincial and federal environmental policies around natural resource management; examine the role of communication in the facilitation of social learning; and to critically examine how participation and non-participation in deliberative processes affects the flow of communications. Social learning theory, as proposed by Rist et al. (2007), in combination with Communication Infrastructure theory (Kim & Ball-Rokeach, 2006) formed the theoretical framework for this study. This study found that the lack of clarity and incentive provided in both environmental legislation and policy related to the conduct and frequency of public consultations, the outlet, format, and provision of project information to the general public, as well as the company’s ability to disregard more effective participation methods in light of economic objectives represent significant barriers to deliberative processes of communities at the grassroots level. Exploring and documenting these communication flows enables a better understanding of how communication can serve as a foundation for improving communication forms related to extractive resource projects, establishing an integrated community voice, and influencing and affecting positive social-environmental change.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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