What are the factors that drive community support for mining projects?

Anti-mining protest. Such protest are often the result of a lack of adequate or proper community engagement. Source: K. Bacongco

Anti-mining protest. Such protest are often the result of a lack of adequate or proper community engagement. Source: K. Bacongco

In this era where corporate social responsibility and sustainability programs are essential aspects of mine management and planning, community engagement is essential for mine management throughout the mine’s life cycle. One of our goals during community engagement is to understand what mine development options are favored/disliked by stakeholders and why. A group of researchers in the Sustainable Mining Modeling Group at the Missouri University of Science & Technology is doing research to try and provide new tools for modeling community acceptance and how it changes over time. As part of that research, the group has undertaken some research to try and understand the drivers of community acceptance, in preparation for discrete choice modeling. At the just ended Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) Annual Meeting, the group presented some results along those lines. The goal of this blog post is to provide a brief primer to this research by presenting the main findings.

There are three key questions that we sought to answer in this preliminary research:

  1. What are the factors that are important in an individuals decision to support or not support a mining project?
  2. Do these factors vary based on prior experience with mining?
  3. What demographic factors account for differences in the importance of these factors?

In order to find answers to these questions, the research team surveyed 100 people who live in mining communities. The survey presented the participants with 16 factors and asked them to rank each factor, on a scale of 1 (not at all important) to 7 (extremely important), how important the factor will be in their decision to support a mine. The team tracked six demographic factors (age, gender, income, number of children, job field and education). The team then determined, from the survey results, which demographic factors were important. These were found to be age, gender, education and income. Another 100 participants were recruited from non-mining communities, making sure to match the demographic make-up (on the key demographic factors) of the first sample. The second set of respondents were then asked the same questions as the first set.

The respondents indicated that all the 16 factors were important (median ranking was greater than 4 — neither important or unimportant). Based on the results, the rankings were:

1. Job opportunities
1. Water pollution
1. Air pollution
1. Land pollution
5. Traffic and crime increase
5. Income increase
5. Mine buffer (distance away from the mine)
5. Mine life
9. Cultural impacts
9. Cost of housing or shortage
9. Availability of independent and transparent information
9. Decision making mechanism during permitting
13. Population change
13. Infrastructure improvement
13. Noise pollution
16. Labor shortage for other businesses

With respect to the last question, the team essentially found that there is very little difference between the significance of the different factors for the two groups of participants. Out of the 16 factors, the only factors where the team observed statistically significant difference between the two groups’ rankings were infrastructure improvement, labor shortage for other businesses, noise pollution, and mine life.

Are these factors important in your decision to support a mine in your community? Which ones are the most important? How do these results change or reinforce your views on what matters to locals in your community engagement? We will love to hear from you.