The response to the horrendous dam collapse at a mine owned by Brazil’s Vale has focused on iron ore prices and how a disaster that will likely claim more than 300 lives occurred, and what must be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again. These are valid concerns, but the risk of focusing on the immediate issues is that the much larger problems of the mining industry are once again glossed over —namely that miners aren’t trusted and suffer from a serious image problem. It may seem somewhat trivial to talk about image in the face of such a human tragedy, but mining’s poor image across a range of stakeholders is the major issue for the industry. If mining has a poor safety and community image, it becomes “uninvestable”, to use the words of a senior global banker, talking at the 121 Mining Investment event in Cape Town this week, held under Chatham House rules. If investors don’t want to commit funds to the industry because of fear over damage to their own image from poor mining pra...

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