The mining industry is improving its technology every year, making it safer, more efficient, and more productive. And yet, misconceptions stubbornly remain about the industry’s safety and technological capabilities…

Americans are fascinated by the origin of tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon, businesses that were started in West Coast garages by people with a few hundred dollars and a dream. Mining, on the other hand, isn’t so romantic — it’s capital-intensive and geographically fixed, meaning that the practice takes a lot more than pure ambition. But that doesn’t mean that it takes anything less tech ingenuity than any of our favorite Silicon Valley stars to do effectively.

With such a large initial investment required, mining professionals are constantly seeking out ways to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity. It’s only natural that they turn to technology to achieve their goal. Mining has always been at the cutting-edge of new technology, especially with the industrial Internet of Things. And given all the automation and research the industry needs to begin its operations, it’s also safe to say that mining is no stranger to big data.

Mining Today, Not Mining Yesterday

Despite being so technologically advanced, the public only thinks of Midwestern miners emerging from a cramped, dangerous mine shaft after a long shift, covered in soot and dust. But this impression is actually quite unfair, given how far ahead the industry is on tech trends that many companies haven’t even begun to adopt.

Because mining companies adopted new tech so quickly, they were able to create highly effective safety management systems and policies, essentially making their employees safer at work than in other areas of their lives. In fact, miners are ten times more likely to die in their own cars than in a mine. IoT-connected sensors detect dangerous levels of methane and give miners time to evacuate, and a recent IDC survey revealed that up to one-fourth of mining companies are exploring the use of unmanned drones to explore remote mining sites.

But in spite of all these digital advancements, people still see mining as a backwards industry. So how do industry leaders turn this reputation around? By undergoing a completely different kind of digital transformation — one that focuses more on public perception than on actual, on-the-ground technology.

Correcting Mining Misconceptions

Mining executives shouldn’t underestimate the power of digital in public relations efforts. Energy companies have a history of thinking differently about the market and its consumers than others in the private sector. Unbeholden for long stretches of time to the public at large, mining executives have long felt it unnecessary to concern themselves with public opinion in the same way that business-to-consumer executives do. They do, however, understand that their license to operate ultimately comes from that same public.

It’s no secret that the reclamation process of a proposed mine is as important to the public as the resources that are drawn from it. Still, mining companies have had trouble conveying that this reclamation means as much to them as it does to the local population. It’s even more difficult for mine representatives to assure that a new mine will be run sustainably.

But all that can change with big data visualization. With the proper KPIs and the right dashboards to display them, mining executives can effectively demonstrate their project’s efforts at sustainability, as well as the industry’s technological savvy. By rethinking their policy towards the public, this incredibly valuable industry should be able to reverse its reputation with the general public and ensure that they’re able to continue their efforts for decades to come.

While the mining industry has digital efforts managed very well when it comes to production and development, there’s still ground to be gained for their PR. Mining executives should seriously consider the power of digital transformation not only for how they do their work, but how their work is viewed by the people around them.