Since the project beginning, in November 2017, the INFACT consortium partners have analysed the reputation and attitudes towards mining and mineral exploration in Europe, and more particularly in the three reference regions. A literature review has shown that mining and exploration activities are inherently connected in the general perception. The general acceptance of mining in Europe is slightly positive, while being higher in traditional mining regions. The main factors characterising mining reputation or acceptance are trust in public governance over mining companies, potentially negative environmental impacts and the fairness of wealth distribution within local communities.
DIALOGIK, SYKE, the University of Eastern Finland and At Clave, the project partners specialised in social dialogue, have conducted a complementary online citizen’s survey in March 2018. With the aim of analysing the public attitude towards mining, mineral exploration and the mining industry, this survey has gathered answers from approximately 1000 persons from each of the three reference countries. The results show that citizens in Finland, Germany and Spain have an overall positive attitude towards mining, considering the sector’s importance for the economy, the opportunities for employment and the country’s independence in terms of mineral resources. Citizens perceive benefits for the local infrastructure but also fear negative impacts on the environment. Relating to exploration with non-invasive methods, like helicopters and drones, participants generally don’t feel bothered and sometimes show an interest in learning more about these innovative technologies.
The study also reveals certain differences between the countries, the positive attitude of participants towards the possible benefits considering infrastructure and facilities being, for instance, dominating, with a higher level of perception in Finland than in Spain or Germany. The participants of all three countries were rather critical of the environmental dimension of mining activities, being the Spanish participants least critical in this matter. Considering the mean trust in public institutions, the three countries vary greatly in their average trust levels, with Spain having the lowest trust level.
Following up on this socio-scientific analysis that is the result of both the literature study and the citizens’ survey and that helps to understand the historical and economic factors which determine the social acceptance for mining activities in the surroundings of Geyer, Sakatti and Seville, the project team is now getting ready for the first technology trials which will take place at each of the reference sites in summer 2018. The analysis also has allowed the team to obtain a better understanding of which type of information the local population usually expects before field research.