Ask any two people in Australia about how they feel about mining and exploration, and they are likely to give you a different answer. In many ways the answer you receive may reflect how closely the person has come into contact with the mining and resources sector, and how aware they are of its economic importance.
It can be an interesting and informative exercise to measure and reflect upon Australian attitudes to mining and exploration – shining a light on where the mining and resources sector as a whole is successfully communicating its strengths and highlighting areas for improvement. It may pay to keep an open mind, tailoring how we talk about mining and exploration to gain acceptance, or undertaking reform as necessary.
In this article, we will explore some of the common conceptions of mining and exploration here in Australia.
A report published in 2018 by CSIRO titled ‘Australian attitudes toward mining: Citizen survey 2017 results’ gives a solid basis to the anecdotal view that Australians understand why mining and resources are important from an economic perspective.
The survey found that over 80 per cent of the over 8000 interviewed Australians agreed that mining creates jobs for Australians. This paired with general agreement that mining was a strong contributor to the Australian economy, and that the mining sector was important for Australia’s future prosperity.
The creation of jobs includes jobs for Indigenous Australians and for young Australians. However, there was limited agreements that these benefits were shared fairly among all Australians; though at the same time, most did agree that mining communities themselves did experience these benefits.
Interestingly, these views were relatively consistent across non-mining and mining regional areas, and even metro areas. Australians tended to be relatively neutral or mildly agree to the statement that Australia depended on mining too much – but were more likely to perceive their own community as not being problematically dependent.
These views on dependency may be due to a perception of dwindling resource supply, or more of a reflection of gaps in other sectors of our economy – but this is speculative.
Within the same survey, 59.5% agreed that mining has positive effects on regional communities in Australia. The survey also found that around the same per cent agree that mining negatively impacts the environment, with water quality being observed as one mechanism by which this occurs.
Around half believed mining negatively impacted the agricultural sector. Fewer (only 19.7%) thought that the cost of living was increased by local mining. Its impacts on tourism and manufacturing were also perceived to be minimal.
The positive impact on communities may be measured by the fact that 63.4% of respondents agreed that mining has helped improved transport infrastructure (e.g., roads and ports) in our regions.
As those in the mining and resources sector know, mining contributes resources that are essential to our day to day lives. Even those who are critical of mining are likely to use these resources, perhaps being unaware of their origin.
A survey by JWS Research released in 2018 found that 55 per cent of Australians agreed that mining provided resources that were essential for ‘modern life, technology and business in Australia’.
Improving one’s social performance is a key element of building trust. Trust may be developed through active consultation with the community; by giving the opportunity to the people occupying the region where you are operating to have a say on how operations go ahead in a sustainable and environmentally sustainable way.
This relates directly to Native Title considerations in Indigenous communities. It also relates to a company’s environmental and planning approvals.
Trust can also be built by ensuring that you approach things professionally from the start. A rebuffed environmental or planning approval may be seen as a sign by community that something is off in your intentions or approach, which may be a red flag and sow the seeds of distrust.
By recruiting environmental consulting, tenement management and legal services to inform and guide your approach to be compliant to regulations and demonstrate a thorough understanding of them from the start, you can take an important step towards gaining community trust.
Hetherington can support you with tenement management, mine work health and safety, tenement compliance, and your programs of work. Our team of experienced mining law consultants can act as your environmental consultants, mining lawyers, your tenement consultant or your tenement management company.
We will bring our experience and wide-ranging local and national knowledge to bear upon your applications and approvals, which can help to secure approval initially and get the project off the ground. Our services can also safeguard compliance (and therefore ongoing tenure) throughout the project lifespan.
To find out more about how Hetherington can help, contact our team on 02 9967 4844 or firstname.lastname@example.org for our Sydney office, 08 9228 9977 or email@example.com for our Perth office, or 07 3236 1768 or firstname.lastname@example.org for our Brisbane office.