A national survey of 8,020 citizens reveals what mining means to Australians in 2017. The survey covers the perceived benefits and negative impacts of the industry, as well as views on fairness, confidence in governance and trust. The results aim to add a new perspective to conversations about how mining takes place in Australia.

About the survey

Mining in Australia has long been, and continues to be, a significant contributor to the Australian economy. Yet mining must also demonstrate that it has a ‘social licence to operate’ among those communities it operates alongside and with society more broadly.

Mining is big business, but not without its problems

This survey report highlights current Australian attitudes toward the industry and what, if anything, has changed in the way Australians think about mining since the results of the first survey of its kind we conducted in 2014.

8,020 Australians were surveyed about their attitudes toward the mining industry. The data reflects the views of Australians living within and near mining regions, non-mining regions and metropolitan areas. Participant demographics, as well as a breakdown of views by region, is provided in the full report.

Download the full report

Key findings

What does mining mean to Australians?

  • Overall, mining was seen as central to Australia and contributing substantially to Australia’s economy and standard of living in 2017.
  • There was also little difference in how Australians perceived the importance of mining between mining, non-mining and metropolitan regions.
  • In 2017, participants also continued to agree on average that mining was necessary for Australia, is important to our way of life, and that mining will support Australia’s future prosperity.

Our survey found that most Australians accept mining and hold positive views about its role in contributing to the nation’s economy.

Graphic highlighting perceived benefits

The benefits of mining

  • In 2017, perceived benefits from mining remained favourable, especially for employment benefits, and there was a significant increase in perceptions that mining contributes to improved infrastructure in regional Australia.
  • The main perceived benefit of mining was the creation of jobs. This included the creation of jobs for Australians, employment and training opportunities in regional areas, and for Indigenous Australians and women.
  • Mining was considered to deliver positive benefits to regional and Indigenous communities.
  • In 2017, there were statistically significant increases in perceptions that mining improves infrastructure in regional Australia. 
  • Respondents indicated that the mining industry made an important contribution to the development of young Australians, which increased across all regions since 2014. However, respondents tended to be less positive about how they personally benefited from the industry.

The negative impacts of mining

Graphic highlighting perceived negatives

  • There was no significant difference in responses on the negative impacts of mining between those living in mining regions, non-mining regions or metropolitan regions.
  • The main perceived negative impacts of mining were the environment and water quality.
  • On average, the impacts of mining on the manufacturing and tourism sectors were perceived to be low, but impacts on agriculture sector were perceived to be much higher.
  • There was moderate agreement that mining had negative impact on the health of local communities and mine employees
  • Participants in mining regions were less supportive of FIFO/DIDO as a ‘sensible workforce strategy’ than those in non-mining regions and metropolitan areas.

Fairness, confidence in governance and trust

  • Generally speaking, Australians were not strongly of the view that the economic benefits of mining are distributed fairly.
  • Respondents tended to agree that mining communities received a fair share of the benefits of mining, especially in comparison with perceived personal benefits associated with mining.
  • Patterns indicated that participants believed that the mining industry listened to and respected community opinions more than state and federal governments. And secondly, those in metropolitan regions perceived they were more heard and respected by industry and governments than those in mining and non-mining regions. This pattern was consistent with the 2014 results.
  • Australians tend to have confidence in their own agency and efficacy much more so than the formal mechanisms designed to hold the industry to account.
  • Overall trust in all actors (advocacy groups, mining industry, federal government and state government) associated with the mining industry in Australia was low. Only research organisations scored above the midpoint of the scale.

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