A national survey reveals the importance of mining to Australia and Australians and uncovers a wealth of information on benefits and impacts of mining that contribute to public acceptance and the industry’s ‘social licence to operate’.

The Challenge

Public perceptions of mining can be negative

A national survey reveals the importance of mining to Australia and Australians and uncovers a wealth of information on benefits and impacts of mining that contribute to public acceptance and the industry’s ‘social licence to operate’ © iStock, George Clerk

Although mining plays a large and vital role in providing resources and materials for modern society, the relationship between mining and society is often difficult. Mining and extractive industries are often perceived negatively, especially in regard to supposed environmental impacts.

Public perceptions often develop from relatively limited information or understanding of the benefits and impacts that flow from mining.

Conflicts between mining companies, local communities and legislators can occur where information and communication is limited. In cases where mining operations and companies lose community confidence or support, the ‘social licence to operate’ can also be lost.

Our Response

National surveys are a foundation for understanding public views

To better understand what Australians think about mining, we conducted an online survey of more than 5,000 Australians in 2014. 

Survey results, presented as a dashborard of responses, showing that Australians see mining as important to Australia's economy and continuing prosperity.

Responses to questions about the importance of mining in Australia, presented as a dashboard with three dials. Each dial shows how strongly respondents agree with a statement on a scale from one (strongly disagree) to seven (strongly agree).

The statements on the dials and the responses shown are:

  • Mining contributes significantly to Australia's economy. Dial at 2 o'clock (agree).
  • Mining is important for Australia's future prosperity. Dial at 1 o'clock (agree). 
  • Mining is not necessary for Australia. Dial at 11 o'clock (slightly disagree).

Mining was viewed as a central and significant contributor to Australia’s economy and standard of living, a ‘necessary’ industry for Australia, and being important to Australia’s future prosperity.

The report goes beyond a summary of community attitudes. It provides a foundation for an industry and community understanding of how the impacts and benefits of mining, and the relationship between the mining industry, government and society, affect acceptance of mining and its ‘social licence to operate’.

The Results

Mining is important but support relies on impacts and benefits

The national survey and report shows that Australians view mining as a central and significant contributor to the nation’s economy and prosperity, but this public acceptance and support is contingent upon views about mining impacts, governance and the distribution of benefits across society.

Australians trust and accept the industry more when they feel heard by the industry, when it is responsive to their concerns, when benefits from mining are shared equitably, and when the legislative and regulatory frameworks in place provide confidence that industry will do the right thing.

This report forms part of our larger program of work examining the relationship between mining and society at different scales in Australia and internationally. A similar national survey and report has been completed for Chile.

Download the report

 Australian attitudes toward mining citizen survey 2014 report [CSIRO Research Publications Repository]

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