The benefits and the burdens

In the last 12 months mining has been under attack like never before.

But, unlike many of my other editor's comments that focus on the apparent love-hate relationship the federal and most state governments have with mining (they love the revenue but hate the industry, barring Western Australia, parts of Queensland, and now the Northern Territory), this time I'm looking at the constant undermining (if you'll excuse the pun) of the industry by environmental and green groups.

Now here at Australian Mining we agree that miners must follow environmental regulations, because they are there for a reason – we wouldn't want a gold miner pouring cyanide from its processing plant into a nearby river, and in this day and age no miner would intentionally.

Being one of the most heavily environmentally regulated industries in Australia, we have a pretty good reputation for 'greener' mining than many other nations, as well as recognition for high standards on our social licence.

Mining in Australia generally engages with the community, provides jobs, and tries to leave the place in the same state, or in some cases a better state, than it was before.

Yet if you were to listen to many environmentalist groups and the Greens, you would think the industry is nothing but a bunch of rapacious monsters, keen to simply tear up the land, clear cut forest, extract all the minerals and basically salt the earth out of spite so that nothing will ever grow there again.

There have been long running campaigns to demonise the industry, all who work in it, and what it stands for, while at the same time enjoying the benefits and contributions that the resources industry makes not only to Australian society but to civilisation as well.

Many of these people condemn the industry on one hand, using their other for the smart phone, laptop, drive their car, or to turn on a light, utilising all the benefits that mining has to bring – rare earths, gold and nickel for technology; steel and aluminium for cars; and coal to power their homes; not even getting started on what the oil and gas industry provides in the form of power and plastics.

These people want the benefits, but none of the reality of where these technologies come from.

Is it hypocrisy or just a society that is unaware of how the world fuels their needs?

As Fortescue's Twiggy Forrest said earlier this year, there seems to be a massive disconnect between much of the nation and primary industry.

Unaware some may be; but other some intent on waging a deliberate campaign of misinformation.

Greenpeace's report on coal, and its plans to raise main to obfuscate the facts while knowingly spreading false information is just shocking.

The classic for us here however is the Greens member in Queensland who attacked Rio Tinto for its participation in a coal port expansion, stating that they are directly responsible for the effects that coal will have on global warming; and then again attacking Rio Tinto after they pulled out of the expansion by claiming that the miner was stabbing the community in the back as it would no longer have the jobs that the port expansion would provide.

These people seem to want it both ways – they want the benefits of mining, but none of the burdens.

They equate modern mining with the practices of last century, when it simply isn't the case.

Mining will never be the greenest industry, but it can, and is, being more environmentally conscious than ever before.

And this is a trend that has come from within, not due to external attacks, and it is a trend that will continue.

Mining isn't green, but its footprint is getting lighter.

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