The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2017 | Mining, Land and Water Law: Ensuring Sustainable and Equitable Outcomes (SOAS) & (BBK)
Document Actions

Mining, Land and Water Law: Ensuring Sustainable and Equitable Outcomes

Principal supervisor: Professor Philippe Cullet

Co-supervisor: Professor Karen Hudson Edwards

Mining has been one of the most controversial issues in the broader ‘development process’. It has shaped and largely influenced international debates over natural resource control, starting in the 1960s with the assertion of permanent sovereignty over natural resources by developing countries. In recent years, extractive industries have attracted an increasing amount of interest. It is widely believed by policy makers at the national and international level that the revenues from extractive industries can have a positive impact on reducing poverty. The advocates, in this regard, argue that the adverse impacts on people and environment can be addressed through good governance and transparent management.

Mining is at the very centre of the process of development because it is seen as a key driver of economic development while often having disastrous human and/or environmental consequences. It has escaped significant policy attention for a long time because mining often takes place in the remotest areas inhabited by people who are usually the least able to assert their rights legally or politically. In addition, the environmental and/or human consequences may not be immediately visible, necessitating legal frameworks to address long-term consequences.

In the context of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is crucial that mining be fully integrated into the debates taking place at all levels. The lack of any mention of mining in the SDGs is a big challenge since it confirms that certain issues are too controversial to be even openly addressed. The absence of reference to mining in the main development policy instrument for the next 15 years notwithstanding, mining is governed by a number of laws and international treaties. One of the main problems is that existing legal instruments often fail to address the aspects that directly touch people affected by mining. This is in particular the case with regard to two key issues, land and water.

This project will focus on land and water rights. Both are two of the key natural resources affected by mining. Land rights are an unavoidable part of a study of mining since it is access to the land that is a pre-condition for most mining. Issues of ownership of resources found under the land has been controversial for centuries but is acquiring increasing saliency in a context of overall land scarcity, better recognition of individual and communal land rights and the growing policy recognition that mining must lead to equitable and environmentally sustainable outcomes. In a context where the law has progressively been strengthened in favour of original owners of land, the law is being used increasingly often where mining projects are proposed against the wishes of local populations. Water rights have been discussed in a context of mining for a long time. Indeed, the very development of modern groundwater rights in England in the nineteenth century revolved in part around disputes linked to coal mining. There is thus an intrinsic link with mining because groundwater is also a resource found under the land. However, in recognition of the different physical, social and ethical position of water, the rights over water have always been separate from those over land. This raises important questions in an increasingly water-scarce world since water needs to be considered not just as an additional element affected by a mining project but as an issue in itself. The fact that water is now recognised as a fundamental human right in countries like India and South Africa makes this even more important.

The project will use two case studies to provide the necessary depth to the study. It will use a country with a historic mining culture among industrialised countries (such as the UK) to look more specifically at the historic legacy of mine waste issues and the way in which this is shaping the response to new challenges, such as shale gas mining. The project will compare this with a country with an active mining culture, such as India where the law has been used on various occasions to address mining-related issues, such as the two landmark Supreme Court decisions in Orissa Mining Corporation v Ministry of Environment and Forest (2013) and Nandini Sundar v State of Chattisgarh (2011).

This project will aim to provide a new framework within which mining can be conceived and lead to equitable and sustainable outcomes. This will include comparing and contrasting mining laws with respect to land and water at the international level and in the case study countries. This will be followed by an analysis of these laws in terms of environmental, economic and social benefits and drawbacks, as well as in terms of what is realistic for countries to achieve in terms of environmental cleanup/remediation.

The project’s significance is related to mining’s central role in the process of economic development. In a context where infrastructure building and access to energy will remain central planks of development strategies for decades to come in the global South, the strong pressure to mine will not abate. It is thus central to ensure that the mining that will take place is framed in a law and policy context that recognises more clearly that beyond the contribution this makes to economic development, there are very serious negative consequences that need to be integrated in the law and policy framework in an effective manner.

We aim to interview shortlisted candidates during the first or second week of June. If possible, candidates will be given one week's notice for interview.  Online interviews can be arranged.

The studentship is for a duration of 3 years and will cover course fees (at the usual level for UK and EU studentships) and a student stipend.

Applicants from non-EU countries may apply for this project but will be required to meet the additional costs of overseas fees from other sources.

Candidate Requirements: Applicants must normally have an advanced degree equivalent in level and content to the School of Law’s LLM or MA related to the project. A background in environmental law is desirable, knowledge of water and land law and policy is a plus.

Key References:

Ajitha Susan George, ‘The Paradox of Mining and Development’, in Nandini Sundar ed., Legal Grounds – Natural Resources, Identity, and the Law in Jharkhand 157-88 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Philippe Cullet, Water Law, Poverty, and Development - Water Sector Reforms in India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Philippe Cullet, ‘Groundwater Law in India – Towards a Framework Ensuring Equitable Access and Aquifer Protection’, 26/1 Journal of Environmental Law 55-81 (2014).

K.A. Hudson-Edwards, Jamieson, H.E., Lottermoser, B.G., ‘Mine wastes: past, present, future’, 7 Elements 375-380 (2011).

D. Kossoff, Hudson-Edwards, K.A., Dubbin, W.E., Alfredsson, M., ‘Major and trace metal mobility during weathering of mine tailings: implications for floodplain soils’, 27 Applied Geochemistry 562-576 (2012).

B.G. Lottermoser, ‘Recycling, reuse and rehabilitation of mine wastes’, 7 Elements 405-410 (2011).

D.K. Nordstrom, Blowes, D.W., Ptacek, C.J., ‘Hydrogeochemistry and microbiology of mine drainage: An update’, 57 Applied Geochemistry 3-16 (2015).

Ligia Noronha et al, ‘Resource Federalism in India: The Case of Minerals’, 46/8 Economic & Political Weekly 51-9 (21 February 2009).

Celestine Nyamu-Musembi, ‘De Soto and Land Relations in Rural Africa: Breathing Life into Dead Theories About Property Rights’, 28/8 Third World Quarterly 1457-78 (2007).

Usha Ramanathan, ‘A Word on Eminent Domain’, in Lyla Mehta ed., Displaced by Development – Confronting Marginalisation and Gender Injustice 133 (New Delhi: Sage, 2009).

Preeti Sampat, ‘Limits to Absolute Power – Eminent Domain and the Right to Land in India’, 48/19 Economic & Political Weekly 40-52 (11 May 2013).

Kyla Tienhaara, ‘Mineral Investment and the Regulation of the Environment in Developing Countries: Lessons from Ghana’, 6/4 International Environmental Agreements 371-94 (2006).

Heloise Weber, ‘When Goals Collide: Politics of MDGs and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda’, 34/2 SAIS Review of International Affairs 129-139 (2014).

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Principal supervisor: Philippe Cullet,

Co-supervisor: Karen Hudson Edwards,

Further information about PhDs at SOAS is available from:


Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

Applicants should follow two steps

STEP 1:  Apply for the scholarship by 17:00 (UK time), Thursday, 27 April 2017

You must apply for this scholarship via the on-line scholarship application form

For any queries regarding the studentship application procedure, please email

STEP 2:  Apply for the MPhil/PhD Law


Applicants must submit a COMPLETE on-line application for admission to the MPhil/PhD Law as soon as possible but no later than the scholarship deadline (17:00 UK time, 27 April 2017).

IMPORTANT: Please state in the application for admission that you wish to be considered for the Bloomsbury Colleges scholarship and use the title of the studentship "'Mining, Land And Water Law: Ensuring Sustainable And Equitable Outcomes' as your  research proposal title and state Prof. Philippe Cullet as your proposed supervisor Your research proposal should take account of the project title and outline above, and indicate how you would aim to carry out the research. In your personal statement, please indicate why this project interests you, and in what ways you are qualified to undertake it.

A complete application for admission includes: A formal application form, A supporting statement, An up-to-date CV or Resumé, A Research Proposal, Full academic transcripts of your College/University studies to date (with official translations from the institution or provided by a recognised translator if not in English), Copies of your degree certificates (with official translations from the institution or provided by a recognised translator if not in English), Evidence of your English language proficiency or intention to take a recognised English Language Test, Two academic references - confidentially submitted by your referees.

The panel will be considering your scholarship application TOGETHER with your online application for admission.

For any queries regarding the programme application procedure, please see or email

Details of Research Degrees fees may be obtained at:

Closing date for applications is:

17:00 (UK time), Thursday, 27 April 2017