A description of the characteristics of the mineral exploration and mining industry is followed by a brief review of related corporate social responsibility literature. Nine case studies of mineral exploration projects in Canada, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina were conducted, involving over 220 interviews of members of the various actor groups. The results were analyzed and interpreted using symbolic interactionism as a theoretical framework. It was found that relationships exerted a significant influence on the course of social events and on the perceived present and future benefits and harms related to mineral exploration projects. Key interactionist concepts used included: meeting transactional needs; dimensions of trust building; meanings; reference communities; identities and relationships. The latter were successfully operationalized using the indicators trust; respect; communication; mutual understanding; conflict resolution; goal compatibility; balance of power; focus; frequency; stability; and productivity. These indicators clearly differentiated the cases. The qualitative “risk-of-conflict measures” of the relationship indicators resulted from the underlying processes: meeting transactional needs and implementing the tactical trust building dimensions visibility; sincerity and personalization; showing face; and establishing routines. A seven-stage generalized model was developed that describes the interactionist processes leading to the development of relationship patterns and new social structures surrounding mineral exploration projects, and determining the course of social events and the perceptions of present and future benefits and harms. The processes at the core of the proposed model are: creating dialogue space that enables meeting transactional needs; developing relationships; and continual adjustment of meanings through interactions. Consistent application of these processes brings social responsibility initiatives into the transformational range and would help overcome the problems associated with many of the overly instrumental approaches that are currently being used. Implications for government policy and industry approaches are discussed and possible applications of the model are suggested.