2023 Thursday AM Panel Session


Day 3 of the 2023 Responsible Raw Materials online conference on 11 May hinged on the current transformation of mining and mineral value chains, including frank discussions of the difficulties, opportunities and ultimately the necessity of change… starting with ourselves, which is of course the hardest place to start !

Vanessa Lickfold GAICD Lickfold really set the change expectations when she shared ChatGPT’s alarming explanation of “trusted mining” as an oxymoron:

“Trusted mining” can be considered an oxymoron because the two words seem to contradict each other. “Trusted” implies that something is reliable, honest and dependable, while “mining” refers to the extraction of minerals or resources from the earth, often with little regard for environmental impact or ethical concerns. The word “mining” can also bring to mind images of unscrupulous individuals or corporations exploiting natural resources for their own gain. Combining these two words, “trusted mining”, suggests that it is possible to extract resources from the earth in a way that is both trustworthy and sustainable, which can be seen as paradoxical or contradictory. (Source: ChatGPT)

Sustainability is changing investment

Amanda van Dyke skilfully drew the connecting lines between the opportunities arising from the energy transition, uncertainties surrounding materials demand and the challenges of reorganising global mineral value chains in this context. Flagging capital constraints for battery minerals in particular, she underlined the need for increased transparency and integration across value chains to achieve the transition objectives.

Jamie Strauss echoed some of these issues in his discussion of trust in mining investment, touching on investors’ requirement for reliable data including as to environmental, social and governance parameters and performance but also their role in creating more transparency and promoting the positive role of responsible operators. He highlighted the absolute necessity of increasing the investment pool available to mining and minerals and decreasing the cost of equity which currently hinders growth; this will require moving beyond the sector’s negative reputation by building on best practices and improving information to stakeholders.

Among the sometimes unexpected aspects of how mining’s profitability connects to social expectations of change in the industry, designing out waste was discussed in an enlightening talk by Kimmo Tiilikainen of the Geological Survey of Finland cheekily titled Is zero waste mining “mission impossible” or a necessity to meet the material needs of the future?

“Designing out waste before opening the mine is becoming the most profitable way to mine in the future. Closed loops of mine waters help to save scarce water resources and avoid polluting wastewaters. Developing the processing may help to make tailings suitable for construction sector. To develop circular economy of minerals we must be able to separate and store different fractions in a way that enables the later use though we do not know that possible use at the moment.”

Stakeholders are changing engagement

Ron Rimelman discussed his experience of balancing sustainable development and mineral needs, particularly in Alaska where interests of native populations, including their deep connection to the ecosystem in which they live, are paramount. He discussed among other things the system of Alaska Native Corporations, each responsible for a different region of the State and having ownership of certain lands and minerals, making them the primary counterpart in building trust with communities.

Many of these themes were also considered by M Cecilia G Dalupan in her discussion of community development agreements incorporating social and environmental protections, enabling sustainable economic outcomes and ultimately supporting project stability. Her organisation, the Sustainable Development Strategies Group, seeks to enhance community awareness, understanding and use of these agreements to mitigate the risk and perception that the benefits therefrom are vulnerable to elite capture and allow more scrutiny of local impacts and benefits. Kyle Pearce (he/him/his) also discussed trust across cultures and hurdles to trusting relationships, connecting some neuroscientific learnings to the complex dynamics between mining and communities, particularly in Canada where laws created significant hurdles to trusting relationships. The Community Integration model he proposes aims to redesign these relationships through early and deep engagement, equity ownership and ultimately co-designing all stages of mining in partnership with communities.

Learning from all of these worldwide experiences, the VECTOR project seeks to explore the complex social, environmental, and technical challenges to overcome to realise the potential domestic sourcing of metals and minerals in the EU. Chris Stockey and Emily Lewis discussed the project’s aim to develop human-centred solutions for a socially acceptable, responsible, and sustainable supply of critical raw materials in Europe, as well as its own efforts to develop trust with all stakeholders through a transparent and robust governance structure.

Allison George widened the scope further by discussing trust and equity across the mining value chain, focusing on the need for a new type of development facilitator, creating a space for mining and all its stakeholders to come together to address global issues. A neutral platform enabling honest conversations is an opportunity to rebuild sometimes broken trust – and strive together for responsible mining and sourcing. This was echoed by Cathryn MacCallum in her consideration of the materiality of trust in value chains. Each of the relationships along these chains will have its own parameters and version of trust, from product quality and timeliness between a supplier and a buyer to ESG as an element of investor trust to compliance and best practices in building trust with regulators and policy shapers. What is common and underlies all of these relationships is transparency, enabling better decision-making by all parties.

The dimensions of trust around mining were masterfully discussed by Carlos S., Head of the Strategy and Mining Public Policies Division at the Mining Ministry of Chile. Reviewing five ‘fields’ of connection, Carlos shared an invaluable masterclass on mining in Chile with many examples – including the much-discussed fiscal reform in progress – of how Chile is (re)shaping its mining sector and a shared future.

Five learnings from Chile

Legal and institutional certainty are essential to the trust between a country and its miners

Mining must make a credible, tangible contribution to the country and its people, and operate with utmost respect for the environment

Transparency and abiding by international commitments shape an ‘international business licence’ for the mining product to access global markets

Correctly monitoring minerals exports conditions efficient and fair taxation

International collaboration for fair mineral value chains must focus on the development of resource-rich countries, by fully leveraging the benefits of mining

And in all this – how do we change ourselves ?

Throughout the day, we circled back to the necessity … and difficulty of change, the trust that is needed to make it happen and how that trust is built from the most individual to the institutional and societal levels.

Leveraging his experience in innovation and organizational development in the metals, mining and minerals processing space in Europe and Russia, both in industry and academia, Gijsbert Wierink discussed cultural change in international settings. Putting people at the centre of change processes, Gijsbert reminded us that seemingly rational decision-making is actually rooted in emotions, habit and cultural settings: understanding and even celebrating these differences enables teams to approach change more constructively and collaboratively. So if you want to know what happens when a Dutch person and a French person walk through a forest, tune in for this talk!

Mark Palmer expanded this to a discussion of institutional-based trust in the extractive industries, asking whether we should rip the plaster off or keep it on in relation to temporary and persistent institutional breaches. He explored issues of consistency of behaviour and the social challenges institutional actors face as they attempt to build trust in markedly different and contested institutional environments.

Insights from Day 3, session 1, by Ludivine Wouters for Responsible Raw Materials:

(2) RRM 2023 – Criticality of Trust – Day 3 Review | LinkedIn


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