That´s what Francisco Klima said, after presenting the results of the Public Opinion 2019 survey at Coquimbo Region, giving promising results for the industry. However, it shows that in order to keep a level of trust in the sector-that reaches up to 44%- it is necessary that the mining industry integrates within its value offer the social and environmental challenges “  

A 52% of Coquimbo´s population considers that mining is one of the most important economic activities for the development of its region and 44% trusts in the companies of the sector. Employment, however, is one of the main concerns, above health and safety. Those are one of the main conclusions of this study done by the Dynamic Platform consultancy and El Dia journal, whose results were recently presented before government officials, company executives, unions and several civil society actors of the Coquimbo region.

Francisco Klima, executive director of Plataforma Dinamica (Dynamic Platform), explains that this is the second version of a public-private study started last year, motivated by the lack of evidence that exists in the regions to boost public debate, as well as needs for information on behalf of public and private institutions, such as mining 

“Mining has a very important role to play. Because of its tradition in the region and also because of its now known levels of trust, it is the one to stop inertia, take leadership and summon a public conversation about how the region combines the progress it needs with the social and environmental challenges that the territory faces”, the sociologist specialist in territorial studies explained. 

Mining is perceived as the most important activity for the development of the region (52%); this, even though it is constantly in public debate, because of its social and environmental impact. ¿How can mining companies capitalize this perception? 

I think that mining has two important challenges in the region. The first one, is that it undoubtedly has a significant role in continuing to push economic development in the territory. Moreover, considering that employment is the main problem declared by people, with 54%. Secondly, these numbers supporting the industry are a call to not only take care of the region problems but also the challenges it faces. What these numbers are saying is that mining is a very important asset for the territory and, as such, has to be able to summon and articulate a public conversation that goes beyond employment issues. Things that affect the region like, for example, dry season and the environment, these subjects should be addressed by the industry.

The level of trust in the mining companies is relatively high (44%) even higher than ONGs (42%). ¿What is the reason for these figures? ¿Is there room to increase the level of trust? ¿In what way? 

These numbers are good because people, in general, perceives that mining has been doing a great job in this region and it is an essential part of its progress. What we now know as Coquimbo´s Region real estate development, urban diversification and variety of services probably it is, in part, promoted by the benefits the mining industry generates, and people see that.

In this context, rather than look for spaces to grow in confidence, what is important today is to remain relevant, especially if we consider that we undertake constant disapproval from the authorities and institutions. 

Even though mining is perceived as the biggest productive activity in the region, there´s is still some perception of incompatibility between the economic development and the social and environmental role of the companies ¿How can, the mining industry, develop a much more fruitful relationship with the communities?

Recently we have seen how the discussion around the environment and the local development of the communities have taken over the agenda. Because of that, mining has to give a second look to its value offer. Job creation and its contribution to the economic development is an important asset, but insufficient to generate a virtuous relationship. In that sense, the environmental care, a transparent relation with the communities and the concern for their health, are fundamental aspects when generating fruitful bonds.

This is not easy: the social and political context in which mining operated in, shifted quickly. There is a crisis in terms of traditional leadership, we can see, more often, how new interests and situational leaderships are articulated at the territories, which generates broader spaces where the environmental conflicts can be instrumentalized for political ends. 

The industry must, in this sense, promote coevolutionary learning processes with different actors of the territory, in a way that we can move towards less transactional and conflict-reactionary relationships.

The results of the survey show a great variability of the subjects that concern the habitants of the region in terms of results with national reach, particularly the ones involving employment and dry season ¿In what way should private and public actors answer these concerns? ¿Does mining play a role in this situation? 

Public actors must understand that when facing complex problems and structural challenges, collaborative logics are likely to be the most beneficial for Coquimbo´s region. And in this logic not only politics should be included, but also private companies, universities and civil society. 

In this scenario, as I said earlier, mining has a very important role to play. Because of its tradition in the region and because of its now known levels of trust, it is the one to stop inertia, take leadership and summon a public conversation about how the region combines the necessary progress with the social and environmental challenges the territory faces. In the context of climate change, currently being discussed on an international level, this issue becomes more important to be addressed by the mining industry.