The 2023 Responsible Raw Materials online conference continued on 10 May to explore how we can improve the quality of dialogue, foster greater trust among various actors and facilitate innovation for more responsible and sustainable mineral value chains.
The guiding thread of the day was the focus on in-between spaces – the gaps between siloes of expertise, levels of a value chain, narratives, perceptions and positions… the ones we can span with a leap of faith before building enduring trust and systems of connections.
In a session on Skill-Building for Collaboration Robin Prospect demonstrated an important communication tool taught by relationship experts: reflective listening supports collaborators to find shared values and creates empathy for different perspectives; although simple it can have a significant impact on company culture, both internal and external. Complementary insights and skills were explored by Adrien-Joseph Le Clef to Build Trust in a Negotiation, to move from competitive to collaborative negotiations by understanding and actioning levers of self-trust (credibility), relationship trust (alignment), organisational trust (stakeholder alignment) and market trust (external alignment). This was brought a step further by Johannes Drielsma and Volker Visotschnig discussing ‘Systemic Consensing’ as a Means of Building Trust. Having observed that decision-making processes and outcomes impact each other, they propose a technique to address resistance openly, changing the mindset of participants in a decision by setting the pursuit of consensus as the primary “rule of the game” through mindful facilitation. Through these different approaches it became clear that time is a factor in trust building – taking or making the time to listen, to understand and to respond with purpose.
“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago; the second best time is today”
Many of these principles were echoed by Jeff Townsend in how the Critical Minerals Association (UK) builds trust to inform CRM policy and enable policy shapers to deliver on the trust placed in them – despite the urgency of the CRM agenda. Connecting the dots between technical expertise and policy, respecting interlocutors and ‘connectors’, moving beyond personal agendas and ambitions to define shared interest are all essential aspects of the coalition-building needed to change the CRM paradigm in policy. This was contrasted with Namali Mackay’s experience with the newly formed Critical Minerals Association of Australia, (re?)building trust in the Australian critical minerals industry: with a deeply embedded culture of mining, Australia is facing generational changes which require new trust equations; tackling greenwashing which erodes public trust, or discussing openly Australia’s geostrategic position and relationships with China are high on the agenda.
A striking and inspirational example of connection and trust-building was presented by Richard Herrington with the Biodiversity Positive Mining for The Net Zero Challenge (Bio+Mine) project, which aims to address the issues associated with legacy mines and the lack of community engagement, particularly in the abandoned Sto. Niño copper mine in the Philippines. In this case scientific work was informed and supported by extensive community engagement, through pragmatic approaches to understand the host communities’ relationship to the site and their needs and aspirations for the future. Again, this entailed taking the time to build trust before rushing into scientific work, which although valid could have been rejected by communities as had previous rehabilitation attempts. Similarly, Priscilla P. Nelson discussed how the Tailings Center at the Colorado School of Mines is combining deep technical expertise, social perspectives and policy to shift the dial on tailings management to approach zero waste production, discussing a series of innovations in the remining and management of the legacy, inactive and active tailings being stored in huge volumes at mine sites around the world.
“Production of waste is a fundamental design flaw for an engineered process; yes the mining industry is in fact in the business of producing tailings… minerals are just the by-product”
The multitude of connections needed to build trust systems were considered across a variety of perspectives.
Quinton N. Newcomb spotlighted accountability and transparency as essential foundations of trust in the relationships we form and the system in which they take place. Taking from his experience as a lawyer and judge, he stressed the importance of understanding fully the interests and expectations of various parties to achieve this trust.
Andrew Whitmore presented the conclusions of a soon to be released report commissioned by Friends of the Earth Scotland on Transition Mineral Supply Chains in the Context of Scottish Legislation, to raise awareness of transition minerals and their environmental and social impacts and make recommendations to the Scottish Government for a strategy based on demand reduction, stressing the need for each of us to hold ourselves accountable for our choices and their impact. This was echoed by Paul Ekins in his discussion of an upcoming report on financing of critical raw material value chains, in a context where countries with legally mandated decarbonation targets require minerals to achieve them and geopolitical tensions permeate trade in these very minerals. Rather than repeat a model of exploitative and extractivist imperialism, opening a new phase of conflict and deeply unfair exchange, he advocates for the recognition of mutual interest in secure supply and sustainable development of producing countries promoting human and environmental rights.
“The International Resource Panel’s report on Mineral Resource Governance made it clear there is not a lot of this commodity about: mining companies, communities, governments don’t trust each other; each is looking to get the best out of the relationship and convinced that other parties are faring better; three-way mistrust and mutual suspicion lead to “unequal exchange” and ultimately to conflict”
Elyvin Nkhonjera demonstrated the potential to achieve this in Malawi’s Artisanal And Small Scale Mining Sector by building trust in legal commercialisation options. Building consensus from the start through a multi-stakeholder approach was key to overcome the familiarity of ASM workers with illegal traders; misinformation attempts and pricing competition therefore resulted in demonstrating the true value of ASM minerals and ultimately justified legalisation in the eyes of public opinion.
On a global scale, the opportunity of more transparent, efficient and sustainable battery value chains was discussed by Olivia McFarlane. Acknowledging that the batteries we make, use and rely on today cannot and will not be the batteries that will get us across the line of achieving net zero goals and sustainable success in the long term, she stressed that consumers should be able to trust policy makers to make well informed and sustainable decisions, which requires more transparent supply chains. Working from the experience of diamonds, 康灵安Leanne Kemp explored the role of trust in material value chains and how to overcome challenges such as lack of transparency, inadequate due diligence and weak governance structures, spotlighting best practices and tools available to enhance transparency and accountability in the context of paradigm-shifting battery policy initiatives.
Insights from Day 2, session 1, by Ludivine Wouters for Responsible Raw Materials: