Mining mineral resources has been found to be an ambiguous way of achieving sustainable development. It can spark the economic development of poor regions, but at the same time it is associated with severe sustainability issues, particularly in areas with governance deficits. Recent developments have spurred a vibrant debate on how to achieve the development opportunities while minimizing the sustainability impacts. As a result, voluntary multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSI) originated with differing foci, aims, and organizational designs. Such MSIs for responsible mining can be interpreted as a social innovation from two perspectives: (1) stakeholder groups cooperate to complement, concretize, initiate, and prepare, but also compete with other forms of governance and possibly replace them; (2) the MSIs support implementing responsible mining in practice. A structured review of 20 MSIs’ documents along an analytical framework covering governance, change in practice, and diffusion shows that the two roles of MSIs can hardly be separated, as the change in practice is enabled via a change in governance. Moreover, the MSIs are found to be a valuable complement to traditional governance of responsible mining, as they transcend national borders, allow for the inclusion of informal miners into professionalization, and offer support to companies to enhance their sustainability performance. Nevertheless, the MSIs are voluntary and relatively young. This limits their power and requires further research for which six avenues are identified in this paper.
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