The social license to operate, as promoted within the fields of corporate social responsibility and impact assessment studies, has entered the business mainstream, especially in the mining and extractives sector. While it is invoked increasingly as a means of claiming legitimacy, the concept remains conflicted, implying that the social license terrain may be more complex and broader than conventional conceptualizations suggest. In this paper the authors draw attention to a suite of licenses and related risks that shape the issues surrounding mining and extractives companiesâ€™ quest for a social license to operate. These are captured in a holistic license and risk model, the social, actuarial and political risk and licensing model (SAP Model). Drawing on research from corporate social responsibility and impact assessment studies fields, the paper introduces the SAP Model and suggests how it enables improved exploration of the meaning, intention and probable implications of the various licenses and associated risks facing the mining and extractives sector. In so doing, it contributes a more contextualized understanding of social license to operate, especially for the corporate social responsibility and impact assessment fields of research.