Why telling better stories is critical to the future of mining
Our sector has long lamented the disconnect between the importance of metals to modern life and urbanites’ ignorance of – and even disdain for – mining.
In part, mining’s perception problem comes from the fact that as raw materials, the metals and minerals the sector produces are so removed from the consumer.
The big exception of course, is diamonds, which still have not fully recovered from the “blood diamond” tarnish. Blockchain initiatives to trace mined gems from their source to the customer – put in place by both De Beers (Tracr) and Lucara Diamonds (Clara) – are positive initiatives on this front.
But, even though the diamond sector is well aware of the power of branding (Diamonds being Forever and all) and speaking directly to consumers, the sector hasn’t been willing enough to tell the many positive stories it has to tell with regards to its contributions to the economies of countries such as Botswana and Canada, and to local communities.
That’s just as true for the wider mining sector, and it’s becoming more and more clear that the industry needs to learn how to reach out to the public, beyond investor and stakeholder groups. In particular, it’s critical to engage younger generations – mining’s future investors, consumers and potential workforce (see page 15).
The Ontario Mining Association, in its #thisismining campaign launched in 2019 as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations, has provided a great model for doing this well. The campaign itself, which highlights millennials who work in the mining industry and some of the interesting and unexpected aspects of their lives in mining, is real and honest, bypassing the corporate speak and mining jargon that turn people off instantly.
And the OMA’s partnership with Amber Mac, a tech media personality – who has 124,000 followers on Twitter – to put together a “This is Mining” podcast was especially smart. Both Millennials and Gen Z innately understand and care about tech, and pointing out the intertwined nature of technology with metals is a great “way in” to get their attention.
The wider public enthusiasm for a green economy is also giving the industry a spectacular opportunity to rebrand itself. Elon Musk’s search for low-carbon metals for production of Tesla’s electric vehicles has been a huge gift here.
According to a Mining Association of Canada survey conducted last March by Abacus Data, Canadians like the idea of our mining sector playing a key role in the transition to a greener, low-carbon economy.
Of those surveyed, 88% supported government action to position Canada as a preferred source for critical minerals.
Seizing on that sentiment is key to attracting new investors and new talent.
Making the most of these opportunities, however, will depend on miners’ willingness to be transparent, tell their stories and engage with the public at large. That may be a tall order for an industry that, with its history of mostly getting mainstream coverage for negative news, may be wary of reaching outside of its own bubble.