Head of NSW Minerals Council says the mining industry needs to better communicate with the community in order to maintain its social license to operate.
Speaking at the council’s environment and community conference in Wollongong yesterday, chief executive Stephen Galilee said resource company performances were continually being challenged via social media channels and that in many cases the sector needed to lift its game, the Illawarra Mercury reported.
"We have to be good community citizens and more so here in NSW, where we don't have a fly-in-fly-out workforce in anywhere near the scale that we see in Queensland and WA.
"Our local miners are local residents in most cases, and their families also live near by so managing environmental and community impacts are an even higher priority,” he said.
Galilee said that with activist activity ramping up on social media, companies need to better communicate with the community over any concerns they may have.
"We have genuine community concern about particular projects and that's always been the case for mining and for other industries, but we also as an industry are increasingly facing deliberate opposition by activists who are opposed to mining, and no amount of best practice on community or environmental activities are going to satisfy them.
"That is a reminder to us as an industry … that we need to be constantly lifting our game, because we're working in an environment where people are actively working to undermine our relationships with the community and with government."
Recent sources of tension in the Illawarra region include a protest of anit-coal seam gas staged at Bulli and the ongoing blockade at Sutton Forest where protesters are blocking Hume Coal access to a property in order to prevent exploration drilling.
Australian Mines and Minerals Association director Sarah Mitchell, a new media expert who leads the online team at Mining, Oil and Gas Jobs, told Australian Mining that while many recruiters had embraced social media to attract jobseekers, mining companies tended to be more cautious, but should look to online communities to better tell their stories.
“The resources industry in general is slow to come into social media and one of the reasons is because of the perceived risk that it could do some brand damage,” she explained.
Mitchell conceded there were some risks in mining companies opening up their brand via social and that planning was the key to success.
“Before you do a single thing think about how you’re going to handle negative comments,” she said.
“The environmentalists and activists are really embracing social media and they’re just waiting to attack.”
Mitchell said the best strategies for developing an online community were to develop “rules of engagement” and have a professional monitoring the company’s outlets at all times.
“Creating an online community is really difficult and it takes a lot of time,” she said.
“You can’t put things up there and walk away and expect it to take care of itself you have to have a full time manager or somebody whose responsibility it is to take care of things.”