The Application of Social Media in the Mining Industry

Zoe M Mullard
Department of Mining Engineering, University of British Columbia
October, 2010
 

Abstract

The current discourse on public engagement in the mining industry revolves around legislated processes that drive communication and information sharing with interested parties.
This discourse neither aligns with modern tools for communication nor with the reality of a highly networked society that use social media to facilitate dialogue. This thesis addresses the gap between traditional communication processes in the mining industry and social media tools that create opportunities for dialogue and information sharing.

The research used a qualitative and mixed method approach to data collection. Twelve
social media websites were observed to assess the extent of mining-related dialogue, and 41
interviews were conducted with representatives from the public, private, academic and civil
sectors to learn about the challenges and opportunities of using social media. The interviews found that 62% of respondents were using social media tools; the most popular applications were blogs, followed by social networking platforms. These platforms are being used for outreach to established supporters and networks. Industry’s use of these platforms mimics their public
relations and marketing messaging approaches, whereas civil society is able to generate
dialogue on a number of topics through authentic disclosure of information. Government
departments have been hesitant to incorporate social media tools as they struggle to align them
with regulatory structures while also presenting an authentic and credible voice. Many
respondents were using a trial and error approach to implement social media, despite having identified risks of using them. Risks and challenges include the possibility of losing control of messaging and wasting time on unproven communications technology. While some mining companies are adopting social media applications to conduct public outreach, these tools have not been explicitly used for stakeholder engagement. Case studies show how mining stakeholders use social media tools and their experience provides a foundation for strategic recommendations. This research demonstrates that social media is being used for specific purposes by mining stakeholders, although there is hesitancy around perceived risks of online dialogue.
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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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