Poll Shows Mining’s Environmental Accomplishments Unknown to American Voters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The vast majority of American voters are unaware of the environmental and technological advancements of today’s mining industry according to new polling, suggesting mining’s legacy skews perceptions.

A new poll by Morning Consult for the National Mining Association (NMA) shows less than 10 percent of voters could assess the scale of emissions reductions that have been achieved in coal-powered plants, the acreage reclaimed and restored from mined lands, and other benchmarks of mining’s progress. Just one in five voters correctly identified clean coal technologies that have dramatically reduced power plant emissions since the first Earth Day in 1970.

“This poll appears to underscore the stubborn impressions that remain from turn-of-the-century mining before the advent of the environmental era,” said Hal Quinn, NMA President and CEO. “The message here is that we need to do a better job of educating the public about the accomplishments of our industry—which like all basic industries is vastly different today than it was before the first Earth Day.”

Quinn said that media coverage of recent regulatory reforms also suggests that perceptions are not aligned with realities.

“If the public fails to appreciate the advances we have made in reclaiming mined land, in producing minerals with less natural disturbance, and in deploying ever cleaner and safer technologies, then the benefits of more regulation will be simply assumed and their costs more easily dismissed or belittled,” said Quinn.

“An honest debate about regulation must start with a broader understanding of how today’s mining industry differs from mining in the past,” Quinn said.

Coal Powered Electricity

Even though coal is widely discussed in the news today, particularly in relation to the environment, voters are uninformed or misinformed about advancements made in coal technologies to date, and the technologies that will make the use of coal increasingly clean in the future.

Coal-fueled power plants have reduced emissions by more than 90 percent since the 1970s. Just 9 percent of voters are aware that today’s coal plants have reduced emissions by more than 90 percent. These reductions have occurred while low-cost reliable coal generation has more than doubled.

There are a variety of advanced coal technologies available today and in development for the future that are making the use of coal more efficient and cleaner. Advanced coal technologies include Flue Gas Desulfurization; Fluidized-Bed Combustion; High Efficiency, Low Emissions (HELE) technologies; and Carbon Capture Use and Storage (CCUS). Despite this wide range of technologies, just 22 percent of voters answered that these technologies are contributing to make the use of coal cleaner and more efficient.

Hardrock and Coal Mining

Today’s mining projects begin with extensive environmental studies and end with land reclamation for recreation, wildlife habitat and community needs.

The U.S. mining industry has paid more than $10 billion to restore mines that were abandoned prior to laws requiring their restoration. Only 7 percent of Americans recognize that the industry has paid more than $10 billion to restore mined lands, returning them to their pre-mining state, an improved condition for wildlife habitat, or transforming them for community use, such as hospitals or schools.

U.S. mining companies have restored more than 2.9 million acres of mined land. A full 75 percent of voters did not know how much land had been restored by U.S. mining companies, with just 10 percent correctly noting that 2.9 million acres had been restored.

The poll was conducted April 13-15, 2017, of 1,992 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/-2 percent.

See the release here.