There is no secret the general population is unfamiliar with the mining industry's value, importance and processes. As the communications media has continued to evolve and transform the way individuals receive and share information, arguably the most important industry (other than agriculture) has been left to public opinion and naivety.
In all honesty, I was very unfamiliar with the industry, it's practices and it's global importance until just recently. As life would have it, I found opportunities to learn about mining while also harnessing media practices. Since then, I have continued to wonder this simple question: Why does the industry have a problem with communicating to the public?
I've given this a lot of thought and have spoken with many well-versed leaders within the industry about it. Through those conversations, I've received a lot of different feedback on the "Why?" part. Because of this, I don't think there is a handful of case studies or examples which pinpoint the crux the issue. Instead, I'll share a few similar themes I've heard along the way which might shine some light into establishing a long-term, industry-wide solution.
Theme 1: Miners, mining leadership, and mining engineers tend to speak best among themselves and to company stakeholders.
Mining is a complex process. Projects can last lifetimes. Feasibility and economics of each project must withstand the ebbs and flows of the market. But these complexities must be shared with the mass public if we have any chance of moving the pendulum of this information gap.
We shouldn't underestimate the willingness of individuals to develop enlightened interest of an industry they know little to nothing about. (I am an example of this). If a teenager in Nevada wants some information on a proposed mining project, there is no doubt that he/she will find it. The question is if you, the mining company, will be the first source of information to that inquiry.
Theme 2: We have refused to speak within the technologies people are using at this present moment in time.
This article is not intended to inform anyone that the vast majority of people on this planet have adapted and inherited new communications tools and techniques in the past 20 years. You already know people are now communicating online and most likely engaged in one or many social media networks.
If you look at user data, networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have continued to dominate the platforms people use for information sharing, shopping and even dialogue. Snapchat, which I proclaim for any business not to be ignored, is now the fastest growing social media network in the world! Furthermore, email still is the most powerful form of direct messaging on the planet.
With the advent of mobile devices, people are now able to communicate and find information almost anywhere in any moment in time. You no longer need to depend on a reader picking up an actual print article or magazine. You, my friend, can now deliver everything directly to them on their terms and on yours.
So the next time you think about writing a press release and shooting it to news sources, perhaps consider doing a quick online video instead. Or find ways to use your digital space to share the information and drive traffic to your website. Better yet, encourage those readers to sign up for email updates and stay in touch with them for the life of that address.
Most importantly, don't be dull with your content you share online. Do your best to make it fun, engaging and worth sharing.
Theme 3: We rarely connect the mine to the final manufactured product.
A consistent theme of conversation I have with many mining professionals is the difficulty of connecting the processed ore to the tangible product people purchase and use. Food, agriculture and some fine goods do a wonderful job of describing where the product was harvested, grown or manufactured. This provides a positive and emotional connection between the product and the consumer.
Unfortunately, this is a very difficult task for the mining industry. After all, much of the material extracted and processed by a mine project becomes lost within the web of distribution and manufacturing. Gemstone mines have a much easier way of communicating these "artisan" descriptions, but industrial minerals are rarely, if ever, publicly classified in this way.
Is it really unfathomable to label copper piping in a new downtown construction development being sourced from the ore-body of the largest copper mine in Utah? Or the powerful magnets in the direct-drive wind turbines utilizing rare earth elements from northern California? (You may call this naive thinking, but I'd consider it wishful thinking instead.)
People are always interested in how products are made and where those materials come from. It is time to work with our distributors and manufacturers in a partnership to communicate these processes. Then, share that information on your website and on Twitter!
Perhaps I am dead wrong about all of this and the general public really don't give a dime's worth of care about the mining industry (until things go wrong). Maybe they don't care because it does not directly affect them. The fact is the industry does directly effect everyone's life on a daily basis. We simply have not shown them how we do so in the ways the market demands us to.