Mining is important to Australians but more needs to be done to boost acceptance, trust and support of the industry.
Key insights into public acceptance of mining and its social licence to operate are found in a new national survey and report by the peak science body, the CSIRO.
In the survey of 5,121 people, mining was viewed as a central and significant contributor to the economy and the standard of living, is seen as a “necessary” industry and is important to Australia’s future prosperity.
The creation of jobs for Australians was the most important perceived benefit.
“Mining is a big part of life in Australia, but the relationship between mining and society is not an easy one,” says the CSIRO report of the survey.
The CSIRO says the survey found Australians trust and accept mining 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 regulatory frameworks provide confidence that industry will do the right thing.
The report says:
“From this data then, we can see that the Australian public are more accepting of the mining industry in Australia when industry and governments work together to build trust in the industry – holding a social licence to operate is, therefore, the responsibility of governments and industry working together with communities to promote effective, constructive, and mutually beneficial relationships.”
To examine the negative impacts of mining, the CSIRO asked a series of questions relating to the environment, other industry sectors, cost of living and the health of communities surrounding mining operations.
In general, the negative impacts of mining were rated significantly more strongly by those living in mining regions, followed by those in non-mining regions and then those in metropolitan areas.
In Australia, governments are always trying to find a balance between supporting the growth of mining development and managing the interests and concerns of citizens.
Some state governments are working to streamline the process for having a mine or extractive operation approved.
“But does this practice risk undermining public confidence in the legislation and regulation that governments apply to ensure the mining industry operates in an appropriate and acceptable way, particularly as this relates to environmental impacts?” the report says.
Streamlining approval may be perceived by the public as reducing the capacity of governments to hold the mining industry to account against its environmental impact commitments and conditions.
The report says: “Paradoxically, reducing the legislative and regulatory burden on industry may make it easier to get a mine approved and operating, but may simultaneously erode public confidence in legislative and regulatory power, which may reduce the acceptance of mining more broadly and make it harder to operate a mine efficiently under conditions of increased social conflict.”
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