High commodity prices keep exploration and mining in the news, and the general public is beginning to take notice. A poll conducted for the MINING ASSOCIATION OF CANADA (www.Mining.ca) this month found that almost two-thirds of Canadians recognize mining as being of “strategic importance” to the Canadian economy.
The message is beginning to sink in.
The survey of 1,000 Canadians was conducted by The Gandalf Group between Nov. 11 and 16 and asked a range of questions regarding Canada’s mining industry. Sixty-five per cent of respondents think the mining industry is of strategic importance to the Canadian economy. Canadians see the strategic importance of mining because a majority of Canadians think mining makes a positive contribution to the communities in which it operates and Canada’s trade with other nations, plus it creates high paying, high skilled jobs in Canada.
Because Canadians see mining having strategic importance to Canada, they want Canadians to be leaders in the mining industry.
83% believe that it is important to have Canadian global leaders in the mining sector.
96% believe it is important to have mining companies with head offices in Canada.
The survey also shows that Canadians recognize the important progress that the mining industry has made in improving its environmental performance, with 58% believing that the industry is a world leader when it comes to sustainable environmental practices.
Of the 1,000 people MAC surveyed, one-third were opinion leaders, or what MAC calls “involved Canadians”. That might have skewed the results slightly in favour of the mining sector, but not much.
In measurements of the positive/negative feelings held by all respondents toward various industries, mining ranked third behind telecommunications and banking. Our industry outranked oil & gas, the media, airlines and cable television. Among involved Canadians, mining was second only to telecommunications. Looking at the answers to this question by involved Canadians, 53% have favourable feelings, 22% were neutral and 20% have unfavourable feelings. Among the general population, the breakdown was 56% favourable, 28% neutral and 21% unfavourable. The remainder, 5% and 6% respectively, were undecided. There was also little difference when answers were viewed by men/women responding and urban/rural residents. By age, people over 55 viewed mining most favourably (62%). By geography, those in the prairie provinces (65%) and British Columbia (61%) felt most favourably toward mining.
In other matters, both involved Canadians and the general public have remarkably similar views. They agree that mining is more environmentally sustainable than it was 50 years ago (61% I.C. and 63% G.P.). They recognize mining as a high-tech, innovative industry (68% I.C. and 66% G.P.). A small percent of involved Canadians agree (30%) or strongly agree (5%) that they would be happy to have a career in the mining business. Among members of the general public, 31% agree and 7% strongly agree that a mining career would make them happy.
Lastly, the poll asked respondents to rate whether or not mining makes a positive contribution in various areas. In nearly all categories, mining rated well. Positive attitudes were noted in these areas:
The contribution to local mining communities, 61% positive (17% negative).
The amount contributed to foreign trade, 59% positive (12% negative).
The number of highly skilled high-paying jobs mining creates, 55% positive (20% negative).
The number of Canadians the industry employs, 52% positive (17% negative).
The amount invested in research and development, 45% positive (20% negative).
The amount of taxes paid by mining companies, 40% positive (23% negative).
Again, involved Canadians and the general public responded in remarkably similar percentages, with involved Canadians tending to be slightly more positive in these perceptions.
The real klunker in the poll was the question about the contribution mining makes to Aboriginal communities. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said this was NOT a positive contribution (43% I.C. and 34% G.P.).
Over the years since such polls began, MAC and its industry members have turned around public thinking about mining and the environment. Their next goal should be to tell people about the positive contributions made to indigenous communities. The public needs to know of the benefits mining offers to everyone.