A new national survey on citizen attitudes toward mining shows that three-quarters of Australians think mining companies should gain consent from local communities before development.
The research also shows that while most Australians accept mining and hold positive views about its role in contributing to the nation's economy, they hold low levels of trust in the industry, don't feel they have a voice in shaping the industry's practices or faith in the governance surrounding mining, said a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) news release on Tuesday.CSIRO surveyed 8020 Australians on their attitudes toward mining. Participants were over the age of 18 living in mining regions, non-mining regions and metropolitan areas.
"In Australia in recent years, the types of conversations we've had about mining haven't always been constructive," said CSIRO social scientist, Dr Kieren Moffat.
"What's been lacking in these discussions – about a resource base that's managed on behalf of Australian citizens – is the citizens' voice.
"We want to promote a conversation about mining that goes a lot deeper and brings that voice directly to the table."
The top perceived benefits of mining are job creation and employment opportunities, which outweigh the top perceived negative impacts to the environment and water quality.
This balance of benefits over negative impacts is considered a strong driver of Australians' general acceptance of the mining industry."These results aim to give mining companies, government and communities a deeper understanding of the factors that lead to acceptance of the industry and the critical elements that develop trust between the community and industry," Dr Moffat said.
Australia is one of the world's top resource producers. Iron ore continues to be Australia's biggest export earner, contributing tens of billions of dollars each year to the nation's economy.
Yet with increasing community expectations, it's vital to the industry's future that it maintains a social licence to operate.
"What remains consistent throughout all our social research is that trust is central to building strong relationships between industry and the communities they work alongside," Dr Moffat said.
"The challenge is that trust is low across the board. Our work at the national and local scales in mining communities demonstrates that there are very tangible, practical ways that mining companies and industry can address this trust deficit."
The results form part of a global database on attitudes to mining, which includes the results of citizen surveys conducted in China, Chile, Finland and Zambia and aims to help the industry improve its social performance.