The Social Licence to Operate (SLO) has emerged as a leading concept to assess the legitimacy of extractive operations. This article examines recent SLO literature to discuss how the SLO is conceptualized and enacted. Our discussion focuses on three main themes: (1) who are considered to be relevant stakeholders; (2) the ways in which these stakeholders are engaged; and (3) how social and environmental impacts of extractive operations are considered. Our analysis points to a tendency in literature to focus on local stakeholders and a failure to consider wider sustainability implications. On the basis of these findings we argue that the evaluation of extractive operations must be based on a comprehensive concept of legitimacy that not only seeks the approval of local stakeholders but also recognises the importance of openended political deliberation that addresses global norms of social and environmental sustainability and includes diverse values, needs and interests.