Mining: A Reputation Challenge or Opportunity?

By: Joanne Kearney

Activist groups work hard every day to shed negative light on mining and resource development here in Canada and around the globe. And many Canadians and media outlets all too often, eat it up. But I believe they represent what is only a very small – yet vocal – minority. Rather, I believe the majority of Canadians understand the importance of mining on our economy, its contributions to our trade relationships and its leadership in community development and social impact. This is especially true of Canadians living in actual mining communities located far outside our major urban centres. When you have the privilege like I have to visit these northern mining communities it becomes quickly obvious that mining companies are one of the only local employers. In fact, the mining sector is the largest private-sector employer of indigenous people across Canada, something that is only poised to increase over the coming years.

Here in Toronto, the TSX is home to 60% of the world’s mining companies and facilitated 60% of all mining capital raised in 2016 worldwide. Those who work in the Canadian capital markets are acutely aware of Canada’s leadership in mining and, as they tackle the cyclical nature of commodities, its contribution to their own professional vitality.

So, on the urban ‘Main Street’ why does the negative often outweigh the positive? Because mining companies have prioritized their communications efforts around three core audiences: their employees and the local communities where they operate; their investors who take risks and provide the capital needed to operate and grow; and stakeholders who influence mining-related policy, regulation and social license to operate. The companies are right to prioritize these audiences and should continue to do so.

But the world is changing. We live in a 24/7 news cycle where all audiences expect instant access to information at their fingertips. In the absence of this, others – like social activist groups – fill the information void and control the story. As the old guard transitions to a new, more digitally-savvy generation, many in the mining industry are starting to embrace a more proactive approach to communicating the good news stories and navigating, with transparency, the more challenging ones.

The Agenda

I recently had the opportunity to join a panel on TVO’s The Agenda to share my views on perceptions of the mining industry and how it’s making great strides to show the positive, friendlier and real face of responsible resource development. Check out the full clip here: