Australia’s coal miners struggle to tell a good story amid falling public opinion and prices – by Clint Jasper (Australian Broadcasting Corporation Rural – June 29, 2015)

Australia’s coal miners feel like they are being hit from all sides, as public opinion about their industry and the price of their ore both continue downwards.

The fall in overall public opinion for the mining industry in general, and ways to address it, have been a topic of discussion for speakers and on the sidelines of two major mining conferences.

At the recent Association of Mining and Exploration Companies convention in Perth, Queensland-based U&M Mining’s Darren Walker admitted the shift in public opinion about coal mining had made operating in today’s environment much more difficult when compared to the good days of the mining boom.

He said groups and activists with an anti-coal agenda had made significant strides in recent years. “That is in part due to the different views and opinions about coal, its uses and its effect on the environment,” he said.

“I think the way that it has changed is that now our company has found we certainly need to sell the story and listen to the community more.”

Events like the Hazelwood mine fire, expansion of the Abbott Point coal terminal in Queensland and a major divestment campaign have drawn controversy and negative attention to the industry.

Risk Communications Australia’s Paul McLeod believed a fall in commodity prices saw many companies draw down their spending on community engagement, which left an open space for critics of the mining industry to step into.

Having dedicated people on a mining project hearing and responding to community concerns about dust, noise and vibration helps ensure mining companies remain valuable neighbours and industries in the communities they operate in.

But without that ear to the ground, Mr Mcleod said, mining companies could lose touch with the community, and any reputational damage was hard to win back.

“The public does not care about the data or your reputation necessarily,” he said.

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