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I wonder what response I would have got two years ago if I had suggested a mining company should post images of catastrophic incidents to their social media profiles?

By Jamie Ross, director, Mining Man and principal consultant, Mining Risk Management (Australia)

If a picture tells a thousand words, then the recent photos released in the wake of two catastrophic events in the mining industry tell many more than that about a step change in the way the industry is dealing with its image to the public and the media.

It’s been interesting to see an interesting outcome from two recent catastrophic events in the mining industry – much increased openness and supply of information from the two mining companies involved.  Particularly with the use of photos to provide updates via social media.

The way the companies have actively distributed information to the media and public is quite a departure from some approaches previously taken in similar circumstance to severely limit access to information, and in doing so allow third parties or rumour to control the “truth”.

The two events I’m referring to are the Bingham Canyon pit wall failure from April 2013, and the underground collapse at Freeport Indonesia’s Grasberg Mine in May 2013.

Bingham Canyon

In Rio Tinto Kennecott Utah Copper’s case at Bingham Canyon, even as the first media reports surfaced about the massive failure, high quality images were available on the companies Flickr site (link here).  The Flickr album continue to be updated regularly.

They also sent media with video cameras up in helicopters and to the pit edge shortly after – see video here.

Freeport Grasberg

In Freeport’s case, they have created a Facebook photo album with a series of images taken during recovery efforts underground at their Grasberg mine.

What this means for mining’s image

The fact these images were released via online, public sources, rather than directly just to the media is probably the most interesting part of the whole movement – what will the industry learn from this about how they can proactively use social media?

I have read with interest the “tone” the media has used alongside these photos.  Overall, I would say they have been much more positive to the image of the mining companies involved, and the mining industry in general.  They have spoken considerably about the efforts underway to recover the situation, and used direct quote from company sources to show the true concern those companies have for the situations. 

A picture really does tell a thousand words, and to a media and public that don’t know much about what the inside of a mine looks like, these pictures tell them we are doing our best, and that we do think these events are truly catastrophic.

For my part, I hope the companies are as forthcoming with the findings of their investigations as they have been with their updates.  Everyone in the industry needs to learn why these events happened, and what each of us can do to prevent them from happening again.

For more great articles from Jamie, go to www.miningman.com

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